Numbers reveal ugly face of Israel housing policy

Friday 08/05/2015
Occupation, that\'s what it is

JERUSALEM - Since seizing the West Bank in 1967, Israel has held full control over all planning matters for both Palestinians and Jewish settlers in an area covering over 60 percent of the territory.
Although settlers can secure building permits with ease, the opposite is true for Palestinians who are forced to build illegally, with Israel bulldozing hundreds of unauthorised structures every year, rights groups say.
Over 60 percent -- around 360,000 hectares or 890,000 acres -- of the West Bank is classified as Area C, where Israel has full control over security and also civilian affairs which are managed by the Civil Administration, a unit of the defence ministry.
UN figures show there are an estimated 298,000 Palestinians living in Area C, grouped into 532 residential areas.
There are also 341,000 Israelis living in 135 settlements and 100 or so unauthorised outposts.
Less than one percent of Area C is designated for Palestinian development, compared to 70 percent which falls within the domain of local settlements, the UN says.
Palestinian construction in the other 29 percent of Area C is subject to severe restrictions and almost impossible to carry out.
Since the 1993 Oslo peace Accords were signed, Israel has issued more than 14,600 demolition orders, according to Israeli planning rights watchdog Bimkom.
So far, about 2,925 structures have actually been demolished.
Bimkom architect Alon Cohen Lifschitz estimates there are an average of two structures per order, meaning that over the past two decades, Israel has issued demolition notices for nearly 30,000 Palestinian-owned structures.
Last year, Israel issued 911 demolition orders on grounds of a lack of building permits.
There are currently more than 9,100 outstanding demolition orders which can be implemented, Bimkom says.
Structures can include anything from a house to an animal shed, a road or fence, foundations, infrastructure, cisterns, cemeteries and solar panels.
Since 1996, Israel has granted only a few hundred building permits for Palestinian structures.
According to Amnesty International, there were 76 building permits issued to Palestinians between 1996 and 1999.
And from 2000-2014, only 206 building permits were issued, Bimkom says.
In 2014, Israel granted a single building permit.
In Area C, a two-tier planning system operates based on ethnic-national background: a civil and representative planning system for Jewish settlers, and a military system without representation for Palestinians, Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights says.
In planning for Palestinian villages, the objectives are to limit land use and encourage dense construction, whereas in the settlements, the trend is often the opposite -- to include as much area as possible, producing particularly low density levels, it says.