This is Part 9 of a 10-part series exposing the underreported joint European and Palestinian program to bypass international law and establish a de facto Palestinian state on Israeli land.
There has thus far been little political will in Israel to counter illegal Palestinian construction in Area C of the West Bank.
For the same reasons it allows illegal weapons to proliferate throughout Arab Israeli communities and Bedouins to establish encampments in the Negev, Israel’s government does not give definitive enforceable orders to its Civil Administration (COGAT) — it wants to avoid negative press or a more violent confrontation with the Palestinians in the future.
Israeli officials thus approach the problem with local Band-Aid solutions rather than a full-frontal assault.
“They are not treating this as a war, and it is a war. It’s actually more dangerous than other wars,” says Brig. Gen. Amir Avivi, founder of the Israeli organization HaBirthonistim. “At the moment, the Palestinians are winning this war. In 20 or 30 years, this will be an existential threat. We need to wake up.”
Dr. Yishai Spivak, an investigative researcher with the Israeli nonprofit Ad Kan, concurs, adding that there are two kinds of wars that Israel is fighting with the Palestinians.
One is the terror war, in which Palestinians use physical violence to harm citizens of the state of Israel. The other is the non-violent or civilian war, in which Palestinians attempt to delegitimize Israel via various channels, such as the United Nations, social media or the global BDS movement.
Another reason Israeli leadership fails to treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves is that its ministers are generally in power for a short time and may be dismissed within their party in short order. For the one to two years they generally serve, they are primarily concerned with building their reputation, desperate to be internationally accepted.
Put simply, the political system bolsters the bureaucrats. And they know that to tackle a problem of this nature and magnitude, they would have to take extreme actions against the European Union, Palestinian Authority and COGAT.
With the painful, precarious status Israel has on the geopolitical landscape, it is unlikely that any foreseeable coalition will set the precedent and shift the paradigm.
Even Jewish settler leaders have failed to respond to this as an existential threat. In Efrat, for example, when Israelis complain to their mayor about the illegal Arab structures popping up around their neighborhoods, the most he will do, if anything, is make a phone call to COGAT, and then quickly forget about the matter.
Many of these elected Jewish leaders in the West Bank focus on addressing the needs of their small communities on a day-to-day basis. Their effectiveness is severely compromised because they are beholden to multiple government ministries for favors, including the transportation, defense, finance and interior ministries, which do not exercise direct jurisdiction over the “green line.”
These mayors have a limited number of asks and it is generally counterproductive to demand that structures be removed, especially when they will likely be rebuilt weeks later. For many settler leaders, as long as there is no peace process, the status quo is all they have to work with.
Nonetheless, the inauguration of a new, considerably more conservative government in Israel presents an opportunity for real change.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who will likely be in charge of appointing a new minister to oversee COGAT, is already taking several punitive measures against the PA and has leveled harsh words at the EU, pledging to stymie their aggressive activity, which he called “contrary to international law and incompatible with basic rules of diplomacy in relations between states.”
Dozens of Knesset members denounced the EU’s confidential June 2022 document providing an “overview of the EU’s approach in its Area C programme” as a severe breach of the EU-Israel relationship whose gravity cannot be overstated.
“Under the thin veneer of the EU’s civility and manners and the seeming concern for human rights, the same old blood libels can be found, along with the same flames of primitive hatred that seek this time to persecute — not the individual Jew, but the tiny Jewish state,” they wrote in a joint letter.
It may even be that right-wingers such as Smotrich and others have risen to power precisely because of growing Israeli frustration over fundamental threats such as this one having long gone ignored.
Part 10 will be published next week.
Part 8 can be read here.
Part 7 can be read here.
Part 6 can be read here.
Part 5 can be read here.
Part 4 can be read here.
Part 3 can be read here.
Part 2 can be read here.
Part 1 can be read here.