ZOA Supports Minister Lieberman’s Call For A New Committee To Deal With Illegal Palestinian Housing Construction
September 11, 2007

Tens of thousands of illegal Arab homes exist in eastern
Jerusalem, Negev, Galilee, Judea & Samaria

New York — The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is supporting the call made in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by Deputy Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman to establish a committee to examine illegal Palestinian housing construction in Area C, those parts of Judea and Samaria that are under full Israeli control, not that of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Lieberman argues that such a committee should also be set up to examine the “illegal construction by Bedouins in the Negev and Israeli-Arabs in the Galilee region”. His demand followed by a few hours the decision made by the Vice Premier, Chaim Ramon, chairman of the ministerial committee responsible for unauthorized outposts, that only the Prime Minister or the Defense Minister possess authority to order the evacuation of 26 unauthorized outposts in Judea and Samaria that were set up under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

In his letter, Lieberman wrote, “According to certain reports, Palestinian construction in Area C is far greater in scope than the unauthorized [Jewish] outposts” and recommends that the new committee should be headed by Talia Sasson, who wrote the Sasson Report on unauthorized outposts. Lieberman added that he regrets the fact that those who wish to evacuate the outposts “are preoccupying themselves with an issue that pertains to Jews only while ignoring the war on terror which is a core issue that has not been dealt with” (Yediot Ahronot, September 2).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA has long argued that the large amount of illegal Arab housing construction in Judea and Samaria and in other parts of Israel including Jerusalem, is a problem that the Israeli government has ignored but must confront. Much of this illegal housing is funded by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and other Arab states in an effort to move towards de-Judaizing Israel and Jerusalem. We are concerned that the Olmert government has focused only on unauthorized Jewish dwellings but taken no action over literally tens of thousands of cases of Arabs living illegally in houses built without permits and frequently without even applying for permits.

“Already in 2002, then-Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky said that, in recent years, Arabs had illegally built at least 40,000 homes in Jerusalem, many of which are empty. Sharansky said 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.’ He said that the homes are ‘built by wealthy Arab contractors, paid for by Saudi Arabia.’ The ZOA has in the past urged Israel to deal with this issue and also urged the Bush Administration to use its influence with Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority to halt this illegal construction activity, but so far nothing to our knowledge has been done. We renew our call now, as the problem of illegal Arab housing construction is clearly worsening and not going away.”

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