Top Israel law officer slams West Bank impunity

A top Israeli law officer said on Wednesday that a culture of impunity reigns among Israeli bodies operating in the occupied territories, who fail to heed even their own rules.

In his annual report, State Comptroller Yosef Shapira took particular issue with the government's handling of Israel's internationally controversial settlements in the territories.

Shapira said that nearly 70 percent of the 120 settlements in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, had been built on state land without the government demanding any payment.

The policy had cost the Israeli taxpayer millions of dollars (euros), he charged.

He said there had also been a mushrooming of construction in the West Bank without any planning permission, in which Israeli settlers had been at least as guilty as Palestinians, who have faced repeated punitive demolitions.

"There is no authority in Judaea and Samaria that insists on respect for the rule of law," he said, using Israel's term for the West Bank, which it occupied in the Six-Day War of 1967.

The Israeli military, which effectively runs the Civil Administration in the West Bank, despite its title, promised to heed the report's findings, although it stressed it had to focus most of its resources on security.

"The main mission of the army is to ensure the safety of residents and the stability of the security situation," a statement said.

"We will, however, draw lessons from this report, so that we can put right past errors."