UN says illegal construction Israel’s fault

Posted: May 2, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Israel, Israeli Palestinians, United Nations

unitednationsbuildinginnewyork.jpgRecent UN report accuses Israel of failing to provide adequate construction conditions for East Jerusalem’s Arab residents, effectively “push”ing them to the only viable option: illegal construction.

The crisis is due to the failure of Israel to provide Palestinian residents with adequate planning, together with the expropriation of about one third of annexed East Jerusalem lands for the construction of settlements, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says in its latest report regarding the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.

While about 190,000 Israel settlers currently live in East Jerusalem, Palestinians face significant obstacles to building and are confronted with a serious housing shortage, according to the report, entitled “The Planning Crisis in East Jerusalem: Understanding the Phenomenon of ‘Illegal’ Construction.”

Excessive delays, high fees and the uncertainty associated with the application process push many Palestinians to build without permits. According to OCHA’s conservative estimate, as many as 60,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem are now exposed to the risk of house demolition.

OCHA (Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) then goes on to label Israel’s control of East Jerusalem as ‘occupation’ (despite the fact that UN failed to take control of Jerusalem in 1948, as it was supposed to):

Families displaced as a result of these demolitions, OCHA says, are left in psychological distress and in situations of increased vulnerability due to the loss of their primary asset, debts, legal fees and heavy fines imposed by the Jerusalem municipality.

The Office underlines that Israel, as the occupying power, must ensure that the basic needs of the Palestinian population of the occupied territory are met.


Areas allowed for Jewish construction - according to the UN - marked green, while areas prohibited to Jewish construction marked with red.

Areas allowed for Jewish construction in and around Jerusalem - according to the UN - marked green, while areas prohibited to Jewish construction marked with red

For reasons unknown to us, UN report fails to note that Jerusalem municipal authorities fail to grant adequate permissions to all residents of Jerusalem – yes, including the Jews – with some waiting as long as three years or more to receive construction permits.


Another option – the only viable option for Jews – is to move to more rural areas, with construction costs lower than those of the city. In recent years, Jerusalem sees decline in its population, with younger generations leaving the city for less expensive zones. In past several years, Jerusalem municipality focused on building high-end apartments, particularly aimed at wealthy foreign nationals, who typically purchase such houses for seasonal dwelling. These buildings usually stand unoccupied for larger part of the year.

While uncomfortable, many Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem could move to countryside. This option is a tough one to take for most, as it would mean passing through West Bank check points daily (just as Jewish settlers in West Bank do). Yet, you cannot have it both ways here. Either you wait on permits, move outside the city or get your house destroyed. Israeli Jews face same issues – it’s just that the UN usually never underscores them.


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