'Israeli construction restrictions harm Palestinians'

Israeli construction re

elon moreh construction 248 88 (photo credit: )
elon moreh construction 248 88
(photo credit: )
The United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a 20-page report on Tuesday about Israeli restrictions on Palestinian planning and construction in the West Bank's Area C. The report, titled "Restricting Space," states that Israeli control over Area C has negative consequences for Palestinians' use of land and resources. It calls for easing restrictions and transferring parts of the area to Palestinian control. Area C makes up 59 percent of the West Bank and is in complete Israeli military and administrative control. It is also where all of the settlements are located, along with up to 150,000 Palestinians, according to estimates. The division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C was part of the 1995 Oslo 2 accord. "Under the planning regime applied by the Israel Civil Administration (ICA), Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in some 70% of Area C, or approximately 44% of the West Bank, in areas that have been largely designated for the use of Israeli settlements or the Israeli military," reads the report. "In order to obtain a building permit, a proposed construction must be consistent with an approved planning scheme - regional, outline or detailed. 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 1% of Area C, much of which is already built up," it says. The report states that as a result of the Israeli planning regime, "tens of thousands of Palestinians wishing to build in most parts of Area C are left with no choice other than to carry out unauthorized construction on their land to meet their housing needs, and risk demolition of their structures and subsequent displacement." This year, OCHA recorded the demolition of 180 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C - 56 of them residential structures, including tents and tin shelters - resulting in the displacement of 319 Palestinians. The report claims that Israel's planning regime in Area C directly contributes to the poor living conditions confronting many Palestinian residents of the West Bank. "The inability to carry out legal construction has a direct impact on the provision of basic services, as well as livelihoods," the report says, adding that the Palestinian Authority is unable to undertake any large-scale infrastructure project in Area C without ICA approval and has had difficulties in obtaining building permits for the construction or expansion of schools and clinics. OCHA also addresses Israeli building in the area, saying that "though [the government] 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." Despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's November announcement of "a partial freeze on new construction in settlements," the report says, "the freeze is limited in scope and duration. The establishment of Israeli settlements has had significant ramifications [for] the Palestinian population, including a reduction in the areas available for Palestinian use and development, the imposition of severe access restrictions, and the exposure to systematic violence by settlers." According to the document, while there have been no demolitions since mid-July, the authorities have continued to distribute stop-work and demolition orders to Area C residents, and thousands of structures remain at risk. To improve the situation, "the government of Israel should immediately cease demolitions in Area C and adopt measures that will ensure that Palestinian planning needs are met," the document reads. In addition, "Israel should cease transferring its civilian population into settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, freeze all settlement activity and dismantle settlement outposts." The OCHA report, which was sent out to 40 donor countries, states that donor support is needed to respond to the immediate humanitarian needs of Area C communities - in the areas of education, shelter, water and sanitation, and also to provide support for legal aid, planning initiatives and livelihoods. The report also called for coordinated efforts to monitor and analyze the impact of Israeli policy there, to mitigate the impact of these policies and to work toward sustainable solutions. An Israeli official from the Foreign Ministry who was asked to respond said he refused to comment on OCHA's reports. "I have stopped responding to their reports," the official asserted, adding that they were a mixture of facts and lies and half-truths. "Even the United Nations ignores their reports," he said. "Call me again next month when they issue the next report, and I'll give you the same answer."