Israel says it will establish new unit to crack down on settler violations, despite greenlighting settlement expansions

Israel says it will establish new unit to crack down on settler violations, despite greenlighting settlement expansions
2 min read
20 December, 2021
Israel claims it will crack down against building violations committed by settlers, but it continues to authorise new settlements in the West Bank that are illegal under international law.
Israel has often been accused of turning a blind eye to illegal construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank [Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty]

Israel will establish a criminal enforcement unit to crack down on building violations committed by illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, according to reports on Sunday, despite the government greenlighting the continued expansion of settlements.

It follows six petitions by human rights organisations and activists, demanding that Israel prosecute the leaders of several Israeli settlements for allegedly turning a blind eye to - and even funding - illegal constructions in the occupied West Bank.

This year's Israeli budget includes funding for 50 additional employees tasked with preventing construction violations in the West Bank.

Many Israelis believed these officials would be used against Palestinians whose homes are frequently destroyed by Israeli authorities on the grounds of being "illegally" constructed.

It now appears that 20 of the staff will make up a new unit whose work will focus on violations committed by Israeli settlers in the occupied territories.

Human rights organisations have cast doubts over the efficiency of the new unit and see it as an attempt to persuade the Israeli High Court to deny ongoing petitions. Others believe the unit will never be formed.

Peace Now, an organisation behind one of the petitions, called Israel's response "foot-dragging" and demanded an investigation into settler building violations by the major crimes police unit. 

Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, committing various violations against Palestinian civilians. 

More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in constructions considered illegal under international law. 

Some settler outposts are also illegal under Israeli law but the Israeli government has been slow or unwilling to evacuate them.

Successive Israeli governments have greenlighted settlement expansions on land deemed Palestinian under international law.

Armed Israeli settlers regularly attack local Palestinians, often leading to deaths, and sabotage local farmland.