New York – The ZOA has criticized the Israeli government for planning to uproot 21 illegal Jewish outposts while ignoring the far more extensive illegal Arab housing in east Jerusalem and across Judea and Samaria. This week, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Jewish community leaders in Judea and Samaria that Jewish settlers who break the law are weeds who should be uprooted and that Jewish communities whose residents have previously clashed with Israeli security forces would be uprooted in coming weeks (Jerusalem Post, June 18, 2006).
However, extensive illegal Arab housing in east Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria has been proceeding for years without the Israeli government taking concerted action to enforce the law. In January 2002, then-Israeli Housing Minister, Natan Sharansky, told a meeting of American Jewish leaders in New York that some 40,000 illegal Arab homes had been built in Jerusalem, many of which were empty. Sharansky stated at the time that the homes are built for political reasons, in strategic areas of the city, along side roads and in areas where they can help split Jerusalem apart … [and are] built by wealthy Arab contractors, paid for by Saudi Arabia.
In December 2002, a detailed study undertaken by Justus R. Wiener for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs demonstrated that there were 4,000 building violations in Arab neighborhoods in the city from 1996-2001, and that aerial photographs indicated that the actual number of violations had been three times that number. Dr. Weiner said then that the [Palestinian Authority] plays a major role in providing funds from the Arab world for massive illegal construction within the city. In fact, then-Jerusalem Mayor and present Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, We know that the PA has supported and encouraged illegal construction… The illegal buildings are mostly built not by private citizens, but by gangster contractors who build on land that is not theirs–with the hidden backing and bribing of the Palestinian Authority (Yediot Ahronot, January 15, 2002).
ZOA Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, This latest episode in which Defense Minister Peretz indicates that action will be taken quickly against Jews who have built illegally, highlights the gross inconsistency and short-sightedness in the governments attitude and approach. Jews building homes without permits do not endanger Israel yet the law is enforced in response to their violations. However, Arabs building illegally on a far larger scale in east Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria, often at the behest of the PA and Saudi Arabia, are endangering Israels hold on Jerusalem and other strategically important territory. This is precisely the purpose of much of the illegal construction and the support for it by the PA and countries like Saudi Arabia.
We at the ZOA do not understand how the government continues to ignore it, especially since Prime Minister Olmert himself has shown in the past that he is keenly aware of the problem. The ZOA urges the Israeli government to cease ignoring the threat to Israel posed by large-scale Arab illegal housing construction and to enforce the law against it as rigorously and consistently as it is now enforcing the law against the relatively minor phenomenon of illegal Jewish outposts.