The Civil Administration is the military unit responsible for implementing Israel’s civilian policy in the West Bank. Its vast powers are tangible in most areas of life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT): travel and work permits; infrastructure – water, electricity, transportation and communication; health, education and welfare; land, planning and building; the Population Registry; agriculture, trade and industry; environmental protection; and archeology and nature reserves.
A position paper prepared by the Israeli NGO Yesh Din entitled Through the Lens of Israel’s Interests: The Civil Administration in the West Bank shows that although international law requires the military commander of an occupied territory to protect the interests of the occupied population, the Civil Administration is effectively used as a means of oppression and domination over Palestinians in the West Bank.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) asserts that one of the Civil Administration’s functions is to “initiate and advance processes that shape the arena through the lens of Israel’s Interests.” As such, the military explicitly declares that it is breaching its obligation as a trustee of the occupied territories, in which capacity it is expected to advance the interests of the protected persons. Moreover, the position paper demonstrates how the Civil Administration uses extraneous and unacceptable considerations in its work, subverting a Supreme Court ruling that the military commander, who is delegated the management of civilian life in the West Bank to the Civil Administration, may not take the “national, economic and social interests of his own country” into consideration, with the exception of security concerns.
The paper presents six areas under the purview of the Civil Administration, which serve as examples of its powers and of the profound impact it has on life in the West Bank: the permit regime; roads; land; building and enforcement; and archaeology and quarries.
Viewing these six areas as a whole points to a system: The Civil Administration is utilized both as a means of dominating and oppressing Palestinians in the West Bank and as a political tool designed to advance Israel’s settlement policy in the OPT; to institutionalize the segregation of populations along ethnic-national lines accompanied by discrimination and exploitation; and to implement practices of land grabbing and dispossession against Palestinian residents of the West Bank, attended by severe violations of their human rights.