Peace Now: Land Grab Means to Link Israel With West Bank, Not Just Expand Settlements

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An Israeli settlement in the Etzion bloc, in the West Bank, April 2014.Credit: Eyal Toueg

Eighteen percent of the land declared state land this week is west of the West Bank separation barrier, suggesting that the intent is not just to expand the Gush Etzion settlement bloc but to link the area up with Israel proper, says Dror Etkes, of  the Peace Now settlement tracking project.

Except for small enclaves of Palestinian villages, the state declared a contiguous area eligible for construction between Rosh Tzurim and Betar Ilit, which are in the West Bank, and the Green Line. The land also abuts Area B, which is under Palestinian civilian control.

The cabinet decided to take over the land in response to the June kidnapping and killing of three teenage Jewish boys by Hamas militants in the area.

Of the five villages whose land has been declared state land in the takeover, 1,155 dunams (289 acres) — more than a quarter of the land appropriated — belongs to Wadi Fukin. The expropriated land is east of the village, turning it into an enclave that could be surrounded by settlements. Since 1967, around three-quarters of the village’s land has been seized for settlement construction.

According to 2013 data from the Civil Administration, of 671,000 dunams declared state land in the West Bank, 400,000 have been transferred to the World Zionist Organization to establish settlements, and 103,000 have been allocated to Israeli local authorities in the West Bank.

Only 8,600 dunams, 0.7 percent of the total, have been allocated for use by Palestinians, mainly for the resettlement of Bedouin. In addition, private land has been expropriated for military purposes and then transferred to settlements.

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