State Comptroller Joseph Shapira blasted the absence of criminal investigations
into illegal settler building and the loss of millions of shekels in uncollected
property fees in the West Bank, in a report he submitted to Knesset Speaker Yuli
Edelstein on Wednesday.
In it he attacked the IDF, the Border Police, the
Custodian of Abandoned Properties and other regulatory agencies in the West
Bank, including the Health and Agriculture ministries for failing to enforce
regulations with regard to property, agriculture, water, illegal Palestinian
workers, the environment and traffic violations.
Peace Now on Wednesday
threatened to petition the High Court of Justice to force the Custodian of
Abandoned Property to collect fees and conduct criminal investigations into
illegal building activity.
The police have claimed it is not their
responsibility to deal with the criminal aspects of illegal building in Judea
and Samaria, Shapira said.
As a result, there is no entity in Judea and
Samaria that deals with illegal building from the criminal perspective, he
Shapira called on the ministries of defense, interior and justice
to create an investigatory body for such violations.
The same is true for
environmental issues, he said. The Health Ministry does not check the presence
of pesticide residues in agricultural products in settlements, as was decided
upon under a 2000 agreement between the ministers of health and agriculture,
There is also a growing phenomenon by which Palestinian
produce is sent to Israeli packing houses in Judea and Samaria, without
adherence to the rules for non-Israeli produce, he said.
There is no
Israeli entity that oversees and coordinates compliance with water laws, even
though there is a continued phenomenon of large quantities of stolen water,
He reported that soldiers did not deal with the issue of
illegal Palestinian workers in West Bank settlements, and that this is
particularly problematic given that they could pose a security
Specifically, he said that soldiers do not record the information
or send complaints to the police.
With respect to traffic accidents,
there is little coordination between police and the military prosecutor, such
that since 2008 there have not been many prosecutions of Palestinian drivers,
even those involved in serious accidents, Shapira wrote.
Police and other
law enforcement agencies are divided as to who is responsible for West Bank
traffic accidents, he wrote.
In a section on abandoned properties in the
West Bank, Shapira wrote that due to a lack of manpower in the office,
half-a-billion shekels have been lost annually because in many cases lease fees
have not been collected.
A request by the custodian for 38 new employees
to fix the situation was rejected, Shapira said.
“We’re talking about a
substantial failure” that lasted for years, Shapira said.
that out of 120 settlements in Judea and Samaria, only 33 were created through
the Construction and Housing Ministry. In those 33 settlements, Shapira wrote,
land leases were properly signed and leasing fees were charged, Shapira
But leases were not signed and fees were not collected in 87 other
settlements created by the Settlements Division of the World Zionist
Organization, Shapira said.
Similarly, he said, the custodian’s office
did not check land used by Israeli farmers in the Jordan Valley and has never
checked to make sure that it or the allowable water allocations are being used
for agriculture purposes.
Since October 2000, when the second intifada
started, 95 percent of the Palestinians who rent property from the custodian
stopped paying their fees. The custodian has not operated to renew their
contracts or to receive their fees, Shapira wrote.
The ministries of
defense, agriculture, housing and treasury knew that there was a problem but did
nothing to address it, Shapira said.
The Judea and Samaria police said it
would study the comptroller’s report, but that the IDF was the enforcement body
in the West Bank.
The Israel police assists the IDF and will continue to
do so in all of the fields that it plays a role, the police official
It is worth emphasizing, the police said, that it does not open
investigations or charge criminals in the field of environmental protection,
illegal construction or planning violations in Judea and Samaria, just as it
doesn’t within Israel.
In these fields the investigative jurisdiction and
decision to press charges in Israel is dependent on professional bodies, the
In Judea and Samaria the civil administration is the
professional body, the official said.
Nonetheless, the police deals with
the water theft issue and gives investigative answers to all complaints of
weather theft and illegal drilling, in particular through combined operations
and carrying out arrests, the police official said.
In 2012, 168 cases
were opened against those who damaged infrastructure, the official said. Out of
those, 22 were cases of water theft, an issue that is a priority for 2013, the
The police does deal with illegal Palestinian workers in
the settlements, but is heavily dependent on the IDF to issue complaints,
because the IDF is the protective force for the settlements, the official
When it comes to traffic issues, the police will continue to handle
such charges in the military courts, but it is important that the traffic
division handle such matters, the official said.
NGO Regavim said the
report was proof that Israel needed to immediately annex Area C, or at least the
settlements located there so that civilian life in Judea and Samaria could fall
under the auspices of the relevant ministries.
Ben Hartman contributed to
Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin