”The defense minister must put an end to the governmental lawlessness in Judea and Samaria,” State Control Committee Chairman MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) said Tuesday during a debate that centered on the State Comptroller`s report on the issue.
”Cooperation between the various bodies in necessary; without cooperation there will be chaos. We will not accept piratical water drillings, traffic and building violations, theft of infrastructure and lack of supervision over agricultural produce,” he said.
Cohen said Israel should consider impounding the vehicles of Palestinians who are caught stealing water as a means of creating deterrence.
Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, the Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea and Samaria, noted that Defense Minister Moshe Ya`alon has instructed authorities to enforce the law with regards to building violations, adding that legal measures towards this ends have already been taken.
Dangot said the defense minister will determine which body will be tasked with enforcing the building regulations, while stating that there are difficulties in enforcing the law due to the interim agreements.
Marco Ben-Shabbat, who heads the Civil Administration`s Supervision Unit, said that during certain periods some 70 percent of the water that is designated for the Jewish communities is stolen by Palestinians. ”They built huge reservoirs for the stolen water and even sold them to others,” he said. In 2011 we disconnected 103 piratical water connections, and in 2013 we have already disconnected another 80 of these connections. We`ve confiscated more than 1,000 kilometers of pipes; we`ve destroyed reservoirs; and we`ve managed to alleviate the water problems. We have filed (a significant number) of complaints, but not all of the criminals are known to us, and the legal process is not always fast and effective.”
MK Orit Strock (HaBayit HaYehudi) accused the Justice Ministry of ”focusing on what is convenient for it. There is a special taskforce in the ministry for enforcing the rule of law in Judea and Samaria, but 99 percent of the time it deals with enforcing the law only on settlers. Demolition orders have been issued for the stolen water reservoirs, but the Civil Administration announced that their destruction is (low on the list of priorities). Much of the illegal Arab construction takes place on nature reserves and ancient ruin sites, yet the Civil Administration still authorizes it.”
Attorney Dina Zilber, representing the Justice Ministry, admitted that the ”lack of enforcement is shameful and outrageous” and said the ministry had warned the current and previous defense ministers about this issue. Major Assaf Harel, a legal advisor in the Military Advocate General`s Corps, claimed that a number of steps have been taken against Palestinian water thieves, including arrests.
Baruch Nagar, the head of the Water Authority in Judea and Samaria, noted that ”all of the water thefts in the region have amounted to five million cubic meters out of a total of some 103 million. We charge the Palestinian Authority for all the thefts, and (the PA) is also obligated to cover the cost of the Civil Administration`s efforts to thwart the thefts.”
Roy Klieger, who represented the Agriculture Ministry at the meeting, said that in 2011 some 471 tons of unsupervised produce were destroyed, and 313 criminal records have been opened since the beginning of 2013. The fines range from NIS 5,000 to 10,000, he said, but added that he did not know how much substandard produce was being smuggled.
Avi Roeh, head of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, added that ”there is indeed a shortage in procedures and workforce to deal with the many violations. The sewage problem is much more severe than the water drillings. The Palestinian sewage flows in vast amounts and without any enforcement. These days a new Palestinian city is being built – Rawabi – without any sewage solution.” Roeh, who said electricity poles were also being stolen by Arabs, stated that the enforcement of the rule of law was ”selective.” An Israeli landfill was shut down, he said, while Palestinian waste disposal ”continues without any enforcement.”
According to Attorney Amir Fischer of the Regavim advocacy group, ”the reality is that there is no desire on the government`s part to enforce the law on Palestinian construction. There is no licensed or authorized Palestinian construction – it is all done illegally.” Eli Rosenfeld of the Shomron Regional Council said, ”Each year new Arab communities that are established illegally and without a license, and the authorities whitewash them.”
MK Mordhay Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi) told the meeting that ”there is enforcement on the Jewish settlement, and there is no enforcement on the Palestinians. The settlers are treated as second class citizens.” Yogev urged the State Comptroller to examine the ”political diversions in the legal counsel, which create an abnormal reality.”
The committee will hold another discussion on the issue in three months` time.