Palestinians Have Received 0.25% of State Land Israel Has Allocated in the West Bank Since 1967

State has said it’s helping the Bedouin by giving them land after relocation, but much more land goes to settlers, according to figures released at the behest of rights groups

Prefab structures near Ma'aleh Adumim for the relocation of Bedouin from Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, July 2018.
Emil Salman

Just off the road a few hundred meters from the entrance to the Palestinian town of al-Azariya near the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, subcontractors of Israel's Civil Administration set up white prefabs. They’re near a chop shop, above the structures of Bedouin who have already been moved to this area.

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The contractor on site had no idea what he was putting up. He was a bit surprised when he heard this week that the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar near Ma’aleh Adumim was to be evacuated. “Aha, we’re putting up classrooms here,” he mused.

The buildings the Civil Administration is setting up near al-Azariya are being placed in an area that has been set aside for the relocation of the Jahalin Bedouin. This is the “permanent site” that the state is offering the tribe, whose members are now living in villages without permits near the settlement of Kfar Adumim. The villages are on state land, so legally they could be recognized, but Israel hasn’t done so and wants to move this community to the permanent site near al-Azariya.

The state has boasted that it’s helping the Bedouin by giving them land. Security and government officials have repeatedly told reporters that the evacuation of Khan al-Ahmar isn’t so terrible because the Bedouin are being offered a better alternative.

Civil Administration figures obtained by Haaretz show how much land the state has actually allocated to all Palestinians, including the Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin, since 1967.

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According to the Civil Administration, since 1967, Israel has allocated only 1,624, dunams (401 acres), including the area off the road at al-Azariya, for West Bank Palestinians. A conservative estimate puts this at around 0.25 percent of the allocations in the West Bank; all other allocations have been for settlements.

According to Civil Administration figures as of 2011, as presented in a hearing at the Jerusalem District Court in 2013, 1.3 million dunams have been declared state land. According to figures presented at a 2011 hearing of a petition by the left-wing planning-rights group Bimkom, up to that year, the state had allocated 600,000 dunams for settlements, of which 400,000 dunams went to the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization.

‘Racist discrimination’

In other words, for every dunam allocated to Palestinians, 205 dunams were allocated to the Settlement Division. The figures were made public after a request by Peace Now and the Movement for Freedom of Information.

“For more than 50 years the state has allocated land in the West Bank almost solely for the needs of settlements, and sweepingly fails to designate it for the use of the protected Palestinians,” said Shabtay Bendet of Peace Now’s settlement-monitoring team, referring to the Palestinians' official status as a “protected population” under international law.

“Land is one of the most important public resources, and designating it for the use of one group only at the expense of another is one of the clearest characteristics of apartheid .... The Israeli government can change this racist discrimination tomorrow morning by [legalizing] the Bedouin community at Khan al-Ahmar, which is on state land, and immediately stop the needless and illegal evacuation.”

For its part, the Civil Administration said that “the number of allocation requests submitted by Palestinians is very low as a rule.”

The areas in question are part of Area C – land under full Israeli military and civil control since the Oslo Accords a quarter-century ago. But around 121 dunams of the land allocated are in Area B – under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control. Some of this land was distributed before the West Bank was divided into three sections according to the Oslo Accords.

All the settlements are in Area C, but according to figures cited by Education Minister Naftali Bennett in his policy plan put forward in 2014, about 70,000 Palestinians live in Area C, compared with 400,000 settlers. Other sources say the number of Palestinians is more than double Bennett’s number.

Bimkom and the human rights group B’Tselem have said there are 180,000 Palestinians living in Area C. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put the number of Palestinians in Area C in 2016 at 150,000. The rest of the Palestinians live in Area A (under total Palestinian control) and Area B, where Israel does not establish settlements and does not control the allocation of land in the same way.

According to the Civil Administration, in 2011 Israel allocated more than 18,000 dunams for settler industry and commerce in the West Bank, more than 11 times what it allocated to Palestinians.

‘Sisyphean efforts’ to get data

The city limits of the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim are also an example of land allocation. Ma’aleh Adumim has 48,000 dunams under its jurisdiction, but the real area of the city is actually much smaller; the city council has authority over areas where it does not build (Area E1 east of Jerusalem, for example). Areas such as these have not been officially allocated but are simply administered by a nearby settlement.

Civil Administration figures show that even areas already allocated to Palestinians often serve the settlements. From the 1,624 dunams allocated to the Palestinians since 1967, more than 600 dunams have been designated as “permanent settlement” areas for Bedouin. These are instances where Bedouin were evacuated or there is a plan to evacuate them from areas near settlements. According to the Civil Administration, 270 dunams have been earmarked for permanent settlement of the Rashaida tribe, and 360 dunams for the Jahalin tribe of Khan al-Ahmar.

The numbers show that about half (53 percent) of the land allocated to Palestinians was allotted before the 1995 Oslo II Accord, and about half has been allotted since. Also, in addition to the 630 dunams slated for permanent Bedouin settlement, 669 dunams has been designated as compensation or for moving Palestinians from areas intended for developing settlements.

Only the remainder, about 326 dunams, has been set aside for other Palestinian needs. The figures include a 1.5-dunam allocation in 2012 for a garbage dump, a 4.25-dunam allocation in 2010 for a clinic, a 0.25 allocation in 2015 for clinics and a fire station, and a 1.2-dunam allocation in 1993 for a swimming pool.

The figures were made public two years after the first request was made, after what attorney Noa Shalita of the Movement for Freedom of Information called “Sisyphean efforts.”

For its part, the Civil Administration responded: “Requests for allocations of state land are normally submitted by the entire population, both Palestinians and Israelis. We emphasize that the number of allocation requests submitted by Palestinians is very low as a rule. The Civil Administration examines all requests it receives on an individual basis in keeping with the procedures and directives determined by the government.”