After an intensive data collection and mapping project that took several months, last week Israeli NGO Regavim released comprehensive—and extremely troubling—data on the Palestinian takeover of land in Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction.
The newly-drawn map of the situation on the ground reflects both illegal construction and land grabs facilitated by the “agricultural use” ploy, that takes advantage of the archaic system of law currently in force in these areas.
All of these projects—construction and agriculture in the service of the future Palestinian state—are made possible by the financial support of the European Union, individual European governments, and European NGOs.
The master plan for this comprehensive, strategic operation was publicized 10 years ago. Known as the Fayyad Plan for the Creation of the State of Palestine, then-prime minister of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad laid out a clear and methodical program for seizing control of territory in Area C to form a broad and viable basis for the Palestinian state, specifically in the areas under Israeli control.
Fayyad’s plan, published and activated only four years after the Palestinians and the Europeans committed to the Oslo framework, consciously bypasses all negotiation or compromise with Israel, and simply creates facts on the ground—facts that Regavim has mapped out and revealed.
The data, culled from analysis of precise Geographic Information System (GIS) aerial photography, indicate that the number of illegal Palestinian structures has doubled over the past decade, while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stood at the head of Israel’s purportedly right-wing government.
In 2009, the number of illegal structures in Area C stood at 29,784, while in 2018 the number surged to 58,435.
The far more worrying statistic, however, is the area covered by illegal Palestinian construction: In 2009, some 11,000 acres of land in Area C were being occupied illegally by Palestinian construction. In 2018, over 19,000 acres have been taken over.
The comparison of these figures with the Israeli “settlements” in Area C is instructive: Jewish communities currently cover some 2.5 percent of Area C. In the past decade, Jewish construction in Area C grew by less than 2,500 acres, covering 11,700 acres in 2008 and growing to an area of 14,000 acres in 2018.
In addition to the Palestinian construction boom, the program of agricultural land seizure has succeeded in poaching tens of thousands of acres of Israeli state land in Area C.
Illegal agricultural projects, carried out on land registered or in the process of registration to the State of Israel, have effectively taken over massive swaths of the open spaces in Area C, taking advantage of a loophole created by the enforcement of the Ottoman legal code in this area that grants rights on the basis of agricultural use.
The data collected and published by Regavim was shared in recent weeks with the mayors of municipalities in Judea and Samaria, who are expected to launch a campaign in the coming days, sharply criticizing the government’s failure to enforce the law, which has enabled the continued establishment of facts on the ground by the Palestinian Authority.
The mayors are expected to demand that the government formulate and enact an emergency campaign to halt any further progress toward the unilateral creation of a Palestinian state in Area C, with clear timetables for action, as well as concrete enforcement measures against recent illegal construction.
Meir Deutsch, Regavim’s director general, released a statement following the publication of the data: “Gut feelings and hunches are easily argued, but the hard numbers speak for themselves and they are unequivocal. There is no status quo on the ground—the Palestinian Authority has been working non-stop to create immutable facts in Area C, while the State of Israel and its leadership have been fast asleep on the job. If the Israeli government doesn’t wake up, the citizens of Israel will wake up to a very harsh reality—a terrorist state right around the corner. The data are a wake-up call.”