Israeli court to rule on Palestinian planning authority in Area C

12:00 Apr 12 2015 Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT)

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Israeli High Court of Justice will on Sunday rule on an appeal demanding the restoration of planning authority in Area C to Palestinians, sources told Ma'an on Saturday.

The appeal was lodged in 2011 by a range of organisations, including Rabbis for Human Rights, the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, in addition to local Palestinian authorities.

The appeal points to the fact that Palestinian building permits are almost never approved in Area C, while those Palestinians who do build live under the constant threat of demolition, which Israeli forces carry out hundreds of times each year.

Meanwhile, nearly all building permits in illegal Israeli settlements are approved, the appeal says.

The appeal is directed against the Israeli Minister of Defense, Israel's West Bank military commander, the head of Israel's Civil Administration in the West Bank, and the Israeli High Planning Council.

Israeli authorities claim that the issue must be resolved through peace negotiations, but those who lodged the appeal say it is not a political issue, but one concerning planning and housing.

'An integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories'

Under the terms of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Area C makes up 61 percent of the occupied West Bank and is under full military and administrative control by Israel.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2014, "Israeli forces demolished 590 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem, displacing 1,177 people -- the highest level of displacement in the West Bank since OCHA began systematically monitoring the issue in 2008."

OCHA added in a January statement: "The planning policies applied by Israel in Area C and East Jerusalem discriminate against Palestinians, making it extremely difficult for them to obtain building permits. As a result, many Palestinians build without permits to meet their housing needs and risk having their structures demolished."

The statement concluded: "Palestinians must have the opportunity to participate in a fair and equitable planning system that ensures their needs are met."

Last month, EU representatives condemned Israel's failure to meet its obligations to Palestinians in Area C, as the EU donated €3.5 million ($3.83 million) for infrastructure projects to support Palestinian communities in Area C.

While the Israeli Civil Administration is nominally responsible for developing infrastructure in the area, nearly all development only supports Israeli settlers illegally living in the area, while efforts to develop existing Palestinian communities are thwarted.

As a result, Palestinians in Area C lack basic services and infrastructure including roads, waste treatment facilities, water facilities, and access to medical facilities, while gaining construction permits is generally impossible.

EU signer of the funding agreement Michael Kohler stressed the serious limitations faced by the Palestinian Authority in promoting social and economic development of Palestinian communities, while EU representative John Gatt-Rutter emphasized that Area C is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territory, comprised of crucial natural resources and land for a viable Palestinian State.

Gatt-Rutter added: "Without this area, the two state solution -- that we have invested in for years -- will be impossible."
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