Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - An Israeli politician is accusing Prime Minister Ehud Barak of maintaining a double standard in the disputed West Bank regarding construction in the region. National Union Knesset Member Michael Kleiner charges an estimated 17,000Arab structures have been "illegally" built all while the government is trying to force the dismantlement of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, i.e. the West Bank.
The Israeli Civil Administration disagrees with his estimates saying the number is much lower but Kleiner alleges the government is refusing to carry out court orders calling for the Arab building dismantlement because the prime minister is "frightened."
"The government is frightened," Kleiner charged. Fear, a double-standard, and a "tendency of the [Barak's Labor-led] left" to discriminate against Jews are the reasons, Kleiner said, for this lax attitude in the government toward illegal Palestinian building in contrast while wanting to dismantle Israeli settlements.
Kleiner told CNSNews.com, there are some "1700 [Israeli] court orders to demolish [Arab] homes built illegally" but they are not being carried out. "They don't even write reports anymore," Kleiner said.
However, the Israeli Government's Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria said the number of illegal structures is far lower. There are some 1,500 illegal structures, spokesman Capt. Peter Lerner told CNSNews.com.
"There are other numbers [of structures] which are also built without permits but are not considered 'illegal,'" Lerner said. Some 5,000 additional Palestinian structures, which were built without permits, are not considered illegal because they were built inside of town or village "planning schemes." A village or town "defines its borders," he explained and if that structure falls within those borders, it is no longer considered illegal as far as the numbers go.
The Palestinian Authority does not deny in any way that building is going on in area "C" - under full Israeli sovereignty. Quite the contrary, the PA encourages Palestinians to build in area C, say PA leaders.
Palestinian Minister for Information and Culture, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told CNSNews.com that he "considers area 'C' to be the Palestinians' land and it [building there] cannot be considered illegal as [building in] the [Jewish] settlements."
"Every Palestinian has the right to build in the area without consulting the Israelis," Abed Rabbo relayed to CNSNews.com through his spokesman.
"It is well-known that the settlements are illegal by all the UN resolutions. By no means [can one] make a comparison because the settlements are illegal," he added.
Kleiner has a different view. "We believe all the Land of Israel is ours and the territories are under Israeli control," he said, basing his statement on what he called "every legal document."
Regarding the PA claim that all of the West Bank belongs to the Palestinians Kleiner added, "They also say the Galilee and whole land of Israel is theirs. Also from their point of view, if an Arab builds an illegal structure [without a building permit] in [the Israeli city of] Jaffa its not illegal."
Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat pointed out to CNSNews.com in an earlier interview regarding Jewish settlements, that both the Israelis and Palestinians undertook not to make unilateral moves and change facts on the ground which might prejudice the outcome of final status talks.
Area "C" is still disputed territory, under full Israeli sovereignty. It represents some 65 percent of the original West Bank from which PA leader Yasser Arafat hopes to build his state. The status of area "C" is one of the prickly issues that will have to be decided in any final agreement.