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Israel's cabinet paves way for widespread demolition of Palestinian homes in Israel

June 20, 2016 7:23 P.M. (Updated: June 23, 2016 4:17 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli cabinet approved a new budget Sunday that would see an Israeli governmental entity established to supervise the planning and construction of Palestinian communities inside Israel, paving the way for widespread demolition of Palestinian homes built without the required permits.

The resolution was presented by Israel’s government as a much needed boost in law enforcement for the underserved communities, putting billions of shekels in funding on the table for Palestinian communities that agree to crack down on building violations in their municipalities.

The decision has been condemned as a move to further formalize the systematic rejection of building permits for Palestinians which forces them to building illegally, which has been a de facto policy in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory for years.

As a result, the proposed legislation puts more than 10,000 Palestinian residents in a number of communities in Israel at risk of having their homes demolished, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

According to Haaretz, representatives of Palestinian communities in Israel reacted to the decision with outrage, and said they would refuse to cooperate with the new system and would not be “the government’s wrecking ball in Arab towns.”

The approved plan would transfer decision-making power regarding construction and planning away from regional councils to local committees monitored by a new national enforcement unit.

The unit is expected to enforce the demolition of illegally constructed houses when the local committees “fail” to do so.

The Israeli government will reportedly allocate 22 million shekels (about $5.7 million) a year -- in addition to a one-time state subsidy of 5 million shekels -- toward the state body.

Head of the Joint List in Israel’s Knesset Ayman Odeh slammed the decision, saying: “At one meeting they (the cabinet) decide to pass a million-shekel budget to deepen the occupation and the settlements at the expense of the rest of the people. At another they approve a shocking plan that clearly sets it sights on the Arab public."

“The plan steps up home demolitions instead of finding housing solutions. It tries to create pressure, of borderline legality, to make local governments hurt their own people,” Haaretz quoted Odeh as saying.

Similar to Israeli policy against Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, non-Jewish residents in Israel are frequently told by authorities their property is being destroyed due to the lack of proper permits.

While Israeli law guarantees Palestinians the same equality as other citizens, in practice there are claims of discrimination in government funding and a raft of other issues.

According to rights group Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Israeli government issues building permits in line with discriminatory state policy enacted to increase the Jewish population, while neglecting local Palestinians.

Israeli Palestinian rights group Adalah says that only 4.6 percent of new homes built in Israel are in Palestinian towns and villages, even though Palestinians make up over 20 percent of the population.

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