UN says Israel bans Palestinian building in 44% of West Bank 24Dec09 December 25, 2009

Ma’an News Agency -  24 December 2009


Israeli military rule has made Palestinian construction off limits in about 44% of the West Bank, according to a recent report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The report says the ban is the result of a planning regime applied by the Israeli Civil Administration, a branch of the Defense Ministry, in Area C.

Under the 1995 Interim Agreement, Israel was to gradually transfer control over Area C to the Palestinian Authority, but the handover never took place, leaving Area C under Israeli control.

“Under the planning regime applied by the ICA [Civil Administration], Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in some 70 percent of Area C, or approximately 44 percent of the West Bank, in areas that have been largely designated for the use of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military,” the report states.

In addition the report states that during 2009 Israel demolished 180 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C, leaving 319 people without homes. The buildings were all razed on the grounds that they lacked permits from the Civil Administration.

A range of factors prevent Palestinians from obtaining building permits.

In order to obtain a building permit, a proposed construction must be consistent with an approved planning scheme.

The report comes amid debate about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent declaration of a freeze on some construction in settlements.

The report also notes that while Palestinian construction is limited by the planning rules, settlement expansion is largely permitted.

“Though it has failed to sufficiently plan for Palestinian villages in Area
C, it has approved detailed plans for almost all Israeli settlements located in the West Bank,” the report states.

“Also, while Palestinians are excluded from the planning process, settlements participate fully in planning and zoning activities and are generally responsible for enforcement activities within settlement areas,” it adds.

“In practice, however, the Israeli authorities generally allow Palestinian construction only within the boundaries of an ICA detailed, or special, plan, and those plans cover less than one percent of Area C, much of which is already built-up,” the report says.

In the majority of villages in Area C, then construction must then comply with outdated planning schemes drawn up under British colonial rule in the 1940s.

“The Israeli authorities’ restrictive interpretation of these plans makes it virtually impossible for a Palestinian to obtain a permit based on them,” OCHA reported.

The report also notes that major parts of Area C are by definition off-limits to Palestinian construction, including land designated for Israeli settlements, nature preserves, military bases and “firing zones.”

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