Israeli Settlement Ariel Expands Onto Suspected Private Palestinian Land

Sixteen buildings have gone up recently in an area not defined as state land. The Israeli Civil Administration says it is examining the issue.

Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger
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Builders working on the Givat Ha'universita neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
Builders working on the Givat Ha'universita neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.Credit: Emil Salman
Yotam Berger
Yotam Berger

Sixteen buildings have gone up recently in the settlement of Ariel on territory not categorized as state land.

The Civil Administration deliberately omitted the area from state-owned territory, which means construction is not permitted there.

Aerial photographs show that 10 of these buildings are completely beyond the "blue line" designation for state land, and six others are partially beyond the line.

The so-called Blue Line team (also called Team for the Demarcation of State Lands) is responsible for outlining the boundaries of state land, which Israel can build on relatively freely, as opposed to private land or land suspected to be privately owned, on which settlements may not be built.

Usually when the team decides against defining a plot as state land it is because there is proof that this land has been cultivated in the past for a substantial period, and that it belongs to private individuals.

When the team mapped out Ariel, a decision was made to exclude a specific enclave, or territory which ought not have been regarded as state land when it came to construction.

An Haaretz examination found that the construction plans for this part of Ariel, in the eastern sector, were approved in the 1990s before the "blue line" was fixed. But due either to an error or deliberate oversight by the authorities, nobody has ventured to weigh in on the possible repercussions of the city's latest construction plans.

As a result, the authorities have continued to treat this land as though it is fine to build on it, as though it is state owned land.

"It is very difficult to believe that the Civil Administration, the Housing Ministry and the Ariel municipality didn't know about this," Dror Etkes of the Kerem Navot research institute which studies Israeli policy in the territories, told Haaretz.

"It seems a lot more likely that they knew and even preferred to keep the story silent in hopes it wouldn't be revealed. It's a reminder of how the system of stealing private land in the West Bank, is at work in Ofra and extremist Amona, the same as in Ariel, Maaleh Adumim which are supposedly non-ideological settlements."

Aerial photographs show that construction began in the area in 2013-2014 years after the Blue Line team had decided to exclude it from the state land category.

The Civil Administration said in response that "the status of the land regarding in which territory it is, is under examination."

The Ariel Municipality said in response that "we build according to [state plans] and the blue line."

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