Bezalel Smotrich. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 Bezalel Smotrich. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Bezalel Smotrich

“The State of Israel is familiar with the Fayyad Plan, but has never understood the significance of the plan, and therefore has never formulated a response,” says Minister Smotrich of subversive PA construction across Judea and Samaria.

By United with Israel Staff

The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday held a meeting on the “Takeover of open areas in Judea and Samaria by the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli response.”

Committee Chair MK Edelstein opened the meeting, which was held at the request of Likud MK Avichay Buaron, by saying, “Anyone who has been to the [area] and seen the Fayyad Plan in action, cannot help but get a bad impression.”

“On the face of it, it looks like anarchy, in which every person does what is right in his own eyes, but in practice, this is a systematic and deliberate plan to smother the development of the [Jewish] communities and seize control of the traffic arteries. They are doing this not only in Area C, but in Areas A and B as well.”

The Oslo Accords divided Judea and Samaria into Areas A, B, and C. Area A is under full PA control, Area C is under full Israeli control, while Area B is controlled by the PA regarding municipal issues, and by Israel regarding security issues.

Lt.-Col. Adam Avidan, head of infrastructure at the IDF Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, said the planning and building processes are identical for Israelis and Palestinians in Area C. Enforcement is also identical, he said. “Wherever there is no valid city building plan (TABA), there is enforcement,” he told the committee.

In an average year, 5,000-10,000 housing units are approved in the Israeli sector, and a few hundred are approved for the Palestinians, according to Lt.-Col. Avidan. He said 90-95% of Palestinian requests for permits are rejected, mostly due to professional issues related to future plans for the land, and sometimes for political reasons.

“This stems from the fact that most of the requests that are submitted by the Palestinians are meant to retroactively regulate building violations that we had already known about and against which we have issued cease and desist or demolition orders,” Avidan said. “On the Israeli side, 60-70% of the plans are discussed and approved. In 2022, 1,600 new illegal structures were discovered in the Palestinian sector. In addition, 500 structures were demolished, not necessarily in that same year. In the first half of 2023, 1,000 new structures were found in the Palestinian sector, and close to 220 were destroyed.”

“In the Israeli sector, 340 new structures were discovered in 2022, and 67 were demolished. In the first half of 2023, 266 new structures were discovered, and 21 were destroyed. It should be stressed that Israeli construction takes place mostly within the localities, as part of their outline plans, and in such cases, the local authority is in charge of enforcement,” he added.

MK Buaron said the data presented by Lt.-Col. Avidan was important, but irrelevant to the debate, “because the Civil Administration runs Area C, not Areas A and B.” He said that a report published by the Ministry of Intelligence in 2021 determined that there was a “Palestinian campaign to reshape the area,” and this campaign “harms the settlement enterprise and the fabric of life within it, dispossesses Israel of security assets and makes it difficult to carry out effective routine security activity in the area. Their main tool is ‘political construction’ – constructing buildings and roads, and laying infrastructure not for any use or need, but to strategically influence the balance of power, from a political or security perspective.”

MK Buaron noted that Section 82 of the report states “The Palestinian moves deliberately disregard the definitions of Areas A, B and C. Therefore, the seizures in Area C are in its view a logical extension of its ‘legitimate’ moves in Areas A and B. Therefore, we recommend that all of Israel’s moves be planned through a perspective which will also include tracking of (and responding to) the Palestinian activities in Area A and B, particularly in those areas adjoining Area C, which have potential future security impacts on Area C.”

In his presentation, MK Buaron showed photos of Palestinian “political construction” over the years, and said “This issue must be addressed. No one in the security establishment is discussing it. We must plan a comprehensive response, and if the cabinet won’t do it, then this committee should challenge it to do it.”

Minister of Finance and Minister in the Ministry of Defense Bezalel Smotrich said, “The State of Israel is familiar with the Fayyad Plan, but has not dealt with it in an organized fashion and has never understood, as a state, the significance of the plan, and therefore has never formulated a response.”

The purpose of the plan, he said, was to prepare the infrastructure for a Palestinian state while bypassing the need for negotiations with Israel. “There is an entire ministry in the Palestinian Authority that is tasked with this, there is plenty of foreign aid, not only European. At times it is shrouded in a discussion about the rights of a certain unfortunate family, but there is a very clear rationale here,” Minister Smotrich said, while mentioning Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s current and past successes in “stopping the flow of funds by exposing to the countries what is really being done with their money.”

Minister Smotrich further said, “How have we reached a situation where a reality is being systematically created here and we are doing nothing about it? The answer is the manner in which the area is being managed, almost exclusively by the IDF and the Central Command. The military goal is to maintain security, and as someone who lives in the area, I am greatly indebted to the IDF soldiers and commanders for this. This is their prism, and they go to sleep and wake up in the morning with the task of maintaining security, but the civilian considerations are always secondary to the security considerations, and the quality of life of the half a million citizens there is harmed.”

Minister Smotrich praised the people of the Civil Administration, but said it was “30 years back in terms of the level of service to the resident.” The security establishment, he said, should not have to invest resources in the management of the civilian system. It does not have the tools for this, and, as I said, this contradicts its purpose. And above all else, it is democratic. Half a million citizens are entitled to having the Government, not the army, assume responsibility and manage their lives.”

Enforcement, Minister Smotrich said, is key in preserving Israel’s national, security and diplomatic interests in Judea and Samaria. He said a committee of director generals, headed by the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, has been set up to “coordinate the security, economic and international campaign.” The committee’s work, he said, which is expected to be completed within a month, “will hopefully lead to a cabinet decision to define the Palestinian Authority’s activity as hostile political activity.”

Minister Smotrich said, “I have no complaints to the enforcement system in Judea and Samaria. It is small and weak. We will form a new unit of the Border Police in Judea and Samaria, and this way, the army will provide a response to the security considerations, and we will provide a response to considerations of national security. So, turning from evil is blocking the efforts of the other side, and doing good, for example, is the afforestation of hundreds of thousands of dunams of state lands, along with the Jewish National Fund.

“The army is not at fault. This is our event, as the political echelon, to issue a directive and instruct. This is why I initially wanted total separation, but I understood the complexity of the army with regards to this issue, and the need to preserve the chain of command. There are ‘labor pains,’ and the coordination has to be tight, but we have created a mechanism that is slowly instilling a change in perception, which will lead to a practical change.”

Minister Smotrich said, “The key to our ability to operate also in Areas A and B is dependent on the definition of the term national security and what is related to Israel’s national security interests.”

Committee Chair MK Edelstein summed up the meeting, saying “I am very concerned. The State of Israel has been aware of the Fayyad Plan for many years. We warn, we are told that we are right, and for many years we have not seen the necessary response to this activity. The reality on the ground is completely distorted, despite the fact that the people of the Civil Administration are doing the best they can. We in the committee will try to change this. We will turn to the National Security Council and ask them to tell us, as soon as possible, who is in charge of advancing the issue, including the implementation of the Intelligence Ministry’s report. We will hold follow-up meetings to make certain that this is being done.”



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