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Israeli press review: Nearly 99 percent of Palestinian building applications rejected

Meanwhile, the Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu parties submit a request to cancel the candidacy of an Arab Joint List member; and Netanyahu discusses the fate of a backpacker detained in Russia
Heba Yazbak, a Palestinian member of the Balad party, speaks during a campaign rally for the Joint List in Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, in August 2019 (AFP)

Area C permits: 99 percent denied

Between 2016 and 2018, Israel’s Civil Administration received 1,485 building applications from Palestinians for Area C of the occupied West Bank, and approved only 21 of them - a greenlighting rate of only 1.4 percent, Haaretz newspaper reported.

While the rejection rate stood at 98.6 percent, during the same period 2,147 demolition orders were issued by the Israeli administration against Palestinian houses in Area C, citing “violations of planning and construction laws”, Haaretz said. So far 90 of these demolition orders have been implemented.

Area C covers 60 percent of the occupied West Bank. Like the rest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Approximately 300,000 Palestinians reside in Area C, as well as around 325,500 Israeli settlers who live in 125 settlements and outposts, built in contravention to international law.

Israel’s Civil Administration, a body in charge of approving buildings permits in the West Bank, is run by the Israeli military.

Haaretz’s report comes after Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett’s statement earlier this month that he was pushing through a series of rapid-fire measures to treble the West Bank's settler population and annex all of Area C, halting Palestinians from building there.

Joint List candidate faces calls for disqualification

Israel’s ruling Likud party and fellow right-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu have called for a ban the candidacy of Heba Yezbak, a member of the Knesset for the Arab Joint List, which is a political alliance of parties representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Main opposition party Blue and White said it would endorse both requests to the Central Elections Committee to prevent Yazbek from contesting in the upcoming election on 2 March.

The parties claimed that back in 2016, Yazbek had used the phrase “Farewell to the martyr fighter Samir al-Kuntar” in a Facebook post, which showed her support for “terrorists”.

Kuntar was a Lebanese who fought in the ranks of Palestine Liberation Front and was arrested by Israel in 1979. Aged 16, he was convicted of killing two members of an Israeli family and a policeman. 

Kuntar spent 29 years in Israeli prisons before being released in 2008. He was assassinated in Damascus in 2015 after he joined the Hezbollah movement.

In a statement, Yazbek called Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu’s requests “racist”.

“It is a political witch hunt on Arab citizens and their leadership, especially in the light of increased strength and status of the Joint List and its increased presence.”

Yazbek also said that the requests were not supported by legal evidence and had been previously rejected before Israel’s high court and central elections committee.

“It is another evidence of the spread of racism and the enmity of democracy, and a pathetic attempt to take the legitimacy from the Joint List to strengthen the right-wing camp,” she said.

Putin, Netanyahu to discuss fate of jailed Israeli backpacker

An Israeli-American woman charged and arrested in Russia for drug trafficking will be on the agenda of talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is to attend a Holocaust memorial event this week in Jerusalem, Israeli media reported.

Naama Issachar, 26, was arrested last April during a layover in Moscow while backpacking from India to Israel. She was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for smuggling 9.5 grams of cannabis and has been held in a Moscow’s prison for almost a year.

After meeting Issachar’s mother this week, Netanyahu said in a video posted on his YouTube channel: “As the Kremlin said today, I am set to meet with President Putin on Thursday and discuss a pardon for Naama with him. I hope, like you, for good tidings.”

According to Ynet, Putin’s press secretary told reporters that a pardon for Issachar “would be unlikely to be announced in advance”, without elaborating further. He also said that he knew it was a high-profile topic in Israel. 

* Israeli press review is a digest of reports that are not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.