A-G seeks probe into illegal West Bank building

Weinstein appeals to Defense Minister to create a unit to enforce law against those involved in illegal W. Bank construction.

PALESTINIAN builds a home in Ma’aleh Adumim 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci )
PALESTINIAN builds a home in Ma’aleh Adumim 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci )
An investigatory unit to enforce criminal law against those involved in illegal West Bank construction activity for settler homes should be created within the IDF Civil Administration, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said on Tuesday.
He appealed to Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to create such a unit in order to help enforce building laws for settlers’ homes in the West Bank.
There is almost no criminal enforcement of planning and building offenses, mainly due to the absence of an investigatory body, Weinstein said.
Illegal West Bank building is an important issue, and criminal enforcement could play an important role in stopping such actions, Weinstein said.
He had made a similar request of former defense minister Ehud Barak, who did nothing on the matter, Weinstein said.
Security sources said they believed that the unit would be part of an new expanded legal apparatus that would have the ability to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate criminal building violations.
Attorney Michael Sfard – who often petitions the court against illegal settler construction on behalf of non-governmental groups such as Peace Now – said that the Civil Administration had a mechanism that allowed it to criminally investigate and sue Palestinians for illegal building, but not Israelis.
The lack of criminal enforcement for illegal Israeli building in the West Bank, he said, was highlighted by some of the cases Peace Now had filed before the High Court of justice.
“We demanded a criminal investigation,” he said, noting that there was no procedure by which to execute that demand.
Yigal Delmonti – a spokesman for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria – said that Weinstein’s letter falsely portrayed settlers as law breakers.
“Judea and Samaria is not the Wild West,” he said.
This is not a simple matter of law breaking, he continued.
The permit process for construction in Judea and Samaria badly needs to be reformed, he said. But the government has not done so because construction has been held hostage to diplomatic concerns, he said.
He urged the government instead to authorize the report by Justice Edmund Levy, which he said laid out a procedure for replacing outdated Ottoman laws with a process for legalizing unauthorized Jewish building.