Yakir settlement
Construction in the settlement of Yakir, near Ariel. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Israeli settlers and their organizations control some 42 percent of West Bank land, even though the settlements' built-up area is just one per cent of the territory, the Israel B'tselem Human Rights Organization said in a report released Tuesday.

Even though some 66 percent of the settlements' built-up areas are defined as being on "state land," B'tselem found that "allocation of this land for settlements was only possible through a manipulative interpretation of all relevant laws in force in the West Bank."

The report titled By Hook and by Crook: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank found that in taking over these lands, those responsible for Israeli settlements have "treated international law, local legislation, Israeli military orders, and Israeli law in an instrumental, cynical, and even criminal manner."

Although Israel declares it is building settlements on state-owned land, B'tselem says it cross-referenced data from Israel's Civil Administration for the West Bank with aerial photographs and discovered that 21 per ent of the settlements' built up areas lie on private Palestinian land.

The B'tselem report is based on official state reports and documents, among them army and Civil Administration maps, state comptroller's reports and a data base set up by Brigadier Baruch Spiegel, a former official in Israel's Ministry of Defense.

According to B'tselem, the Ministry of Justice, asked to comment on the report, replied that state will not respond to the report "in light of its political nature".