1948 Palestinians fear for their homes as Israel's far-right minister Ben Gvir is handed sweeping new powers

1948 Palestinians fear for their homes as Israel's far-right minister Ben Gvir is handed sweeping new powers
Israel’s government approved moving the powers for enforcing planning and construction laws to extremist MK Ben Gvir's Ministry of National Security.
4 min read
08 April, 2024
Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir has been handed the powers to oversee the enforcement of penalties for construction and planning violations [Getty]

Palestinian citizens of Israel are in fear of their homes after the Israeli government on Sunday approved the transfer of sweeping powers over construction and planning permits to extremist National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

The National Unit for Enforcing Planning and Construction Laws will now fall under the Ministry of National Security, headed by Ben Gvir, as part of a coalition agreement previously signed by Likud and the minister's far-right Otzma Yehudit party.

Ben Gvir, who has previously been convicted for membership of a terrorist group and inciting hatred, has long sights set on the powers this unit holds, which was previously under the finance ministry, headed by another far-right MK Bezalel Smotrich.

The National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Authorities have warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against transferring the unit to the National Security Ministry, due to Ben Gvir's "extremist" positions "and racist policies towards Arab citizens".

"The damage this decision could inflict directly on the Arab community, especially in light of ongoing and systematic incitement led by Ben Gvir and [other] ministers from the government against Arab citizens in the country, in addition to the reductions imposed by the current government on the budgets allocated to the Arab community," a statement by the group read.

While homes in the occupied West Bank are repeatedly demolished for the expansion of settlements or as collective action against the families of convicted "terrorists", Israel has also bulldozed Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert claiming they did not have planning permission.

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Ben Gvir claimed the transfer of authority to his ministry will  "improve" Israel's "ability to apply the law against construction violations".

"As we have done until now, whereby we doubled the enforcement of [the law against] illegal construction violations in the Negev - we will carry on with greater force and restore governance," he wrote.

"Whoever breaks the law will face a strong hand. We will not be tolerant."

Palestinian citizens of Israel fear this decision will see the targeting of Palestinian citizens of Israel with thousands already facing home demolitions or given huge fines for building without permits.

The situation has been exacerbated by restrictions placed by Israel's government on local authorities for years including refraining from issuing building permits or prolonging the duration of bureaucratic procedures attached to construction for Palestinian citizens.

The Arab Center for Alternative Planning (ACAP) has also asked Netanyahu to retract his decision.

"Transferring these powers to MK Ben Gvir will definitely lead to violation against the Arab community, and reneges on all previous understandings which representatives of the Arab community have reached with state institutions after long-term professional work," Dr Samer Swaid, director of ACAP, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister paper.

Swaid also pointed out in a message sent to the Israeli PM and the interior and finance ministers that "linking the issues of planning and construction with the issue of crime and violence is an error, as there is no proven link between the two issues, and therefore there is no logical reason to transfer these powers to the national security ministry".

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He branded the decision "political" and emphasised the danger to the Arab community especially "with a burning issue like planning and construction".

He warned that Ben Gvir could seek to exploit the new powers "to abuse Arab citizens, as he, of course, isn't interested in construction planning, but in increasing the points of friction with our community".

Palestinian citizens of Israel face regular discrimination and abuses, including access to homes, land, jobs, and education.


This is an edited and abridged translation based on an article by Mahmoud Majadleh on 07/04/2024. To read the original article click here.

This article was originally published by Arab48.

Translated by Rose Chacko