Yesh Din’s position paper, “Crime Without Punishment” examines how the Israeli law enforcement authorities treat criminal offenses regarding to illegal construction in the settlements and outposts across the West Bank, with an emphasis on the violation of administrative and judicial orders. The position paper demonstrates that the law enforcement system has been systematically failing to do its job: It does not put criminals on trial and does not convict them. Looking at the overall picture, one could even claim that the law enforcement system’s incompetence is purposefully directed at benefiting the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.

Illegal construction by Israeli citizens on West Bank land has continued for 50 years. Hundreds of thousands of structures and roads were built in the Occupied Territories through trespassing, land theft and a wide variety of offenses that violate Israeli planning and construction laws. This criminal activity thwarts Palestinian access to their land and violates many of their basic rights – primarily their right to property.

In many cases, the Civil Administration issues stop-work orders and demolition orders for illegal structures, but in practice, the vast majority of these orders are not enforced, thus constituting the mere appearance of the rule of law. As a result of this conduct, Palestinian landowners petitioned the High Court of Justice in some of these cases, to demand the court order the State to enforce the orders and remove the construction built illegally, without permit. In some of these petitions, the court issued temporary injunctions that are supposed to freeze the situation until a decision is made in the petition. But in many cases, these orders have also been blatantly and systemically violated.

This new position paper presents five case studies in which the law enforcement authorities failed to fulfill their obligation to put people who violated these orders on trial, despite the censure by High Court judges and the State Comptroller. In the absence of criminal enforcement, indictment and punishment, there is no element of deterrence against criminal entities, which means they are likely to continue committing additional offenses.