- Written by B'Tselem B'Tselem
- Published: 12 February 2019 12 February 2019
From B'Tselem's report Fake Justice:
Israeli authorities consider the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank as no more than a matter of illegal construction, as if Israel does not have long-term goals in the West Bank and as if the matter does not have far-reaching implications for the human rights of hundreds of thousands of individuals, including their ability to subsist, make a living and manage their own routine.
The planning apparatus Israel has instituted in the West Bank serves its policy of promoting and expanding Israeli takeover of land across the West Bank. When planning for Palestinians, the Israeli Civil Administration endeavors to obstruct development, minimize the size of communities and increase construction density, with a view to keeping as many land reserves as possible for the benefit of Israeli interests, first and foremost for the expansion of settlements. Yet when planning for settlements, whose very establishment is unlawful in the first place, the Civil Administration’s actions are the very reverse: planning reflects settlements’ present and future needs, aiming to include as much land as possible in the outline plan so as to take over as many land resources as possible. Such planning leads to wasteful infrastructure development, loss of natural countryside and relinquishing open areas.
Israel achieves this end by several means. First, it prohibits Palestinian construction on some 60% of Area C, equal to roughly 36% of the entire West Bank. It does so by applying a variety of legal definitions to vast areas (with classifications occasionally overlapping): “state land” (approx. 35% of Area C), “military training zones” (approx. 30% of Area C), or settlement jurisdictions (approx. 16% of Area C). These classifications are used to significantly reduce the area available for Palestinian development.
Second, Israel has changed the Jordanian Planning Law that applies in the West Bank, replacing many of its provisions with those of a military order which transferred all planning authority in the West Bank to the Civil Administration’s Supreme Planning Council and eliminated Palestinian representation on planning committees. Consequently, the Civil Administration became the sole and exclusive authority for planning and development in the West Bank, for Palestinian communities and settlements alike.
Third, Israel takes advantage of its exclusive power over the planning apparatus to prevent virtually all Palestinian development and to increase construction density even on the remaining 40% of land where it does not a priori prohibit Palestinian construction. In October 2018, at a meeting at the Knesset, the head of the Civil Administration said that, in accordance with instructions from government officials, there is currently no planning for Palestinians.
However, in order to uphold the appearance of a properly functioning planning apparatus, the state argues that plans for Palestinian communities must adhere to the outline plans the British Mandate authorities drafted back in the 1940s – which defined land-use zoning for the entire West Bank – even though those plans are light years away from reflecting the current needs of the population. Admittedly, the Civil Administration has drafted hundreds of Special Outline Plans for Palestinian communities. Yet, while the declared objective was replacing the Mandate-era plans, the new plans were also designed to curtail construction. They are no more than demarcation plans, basically drawing a line around the perimeter of the village’s built-up area on the basis of aerial photographs.