Peace Now: 32% of Land Held for Settlements Is Private Palestinian Property

Group also claims that 24 percent of land on which settlements, outposts are built is also Palestinian-owned.

A report issued Wednesday by Peace Now claims that 32 percent of land held for settlement and outpost use is private Palestinian property, as is 24 percent of the land on which the settlements are actually built.

The organization says the report is based on "official figures" from the Israel Defense Forces' Civil Administration.

Peace Now says that it had previously received data about West Bank land from the Civil Administration that did not reveal the ratio of privately owned Palestinian land to privately owned Jewish land.

The group says that the specific figures were withheld to cover up the fact that approximately one-third of land held by settlements was established on private Palestinian land.

The Civil Administration said in response that the Peace Now report contained several inconsistencies which "misrepresent reality."

"We were disappointed to see that despite the clarifications made by the Civil Administration ... the most recent report is still inaccurate in many places, thus misrepresenting the reality concerning the status of the settlements," the Administration said.

Ma'aleh Adumim built mostly on state landThe Peace Now report did indicate, however, that contrary to numbers released by the movement in November, little private land was seized from Palestinians to build Ma'aleh Adumim, the largest settlement in the West Bank.

The new numbers are vastly smaller than numbers Peace Now issued in an earlier report based on leaked information.

The group claimed in November that 86 percent of Ma'aleh Adumim, which has more than 30,000 residents, was built on private Palestinian land.

After successfully petitioning the court to see the database, the group reported Wednesday that data show only 0.5 percent of the settlement is built on private land.

"The first report they released had major mistakes," said Captain Zidki Maman, a spokesman for the Civil Administration.

Dror Etkes, Peace Now's settlement expert, said if the original information it published was inaccurate, then the military was to blame for refusing to release the database until the court ordered it to do so after the November report.

Asked whether the military might have altered its database after the original report was released, Etkes replied, "It's not impossible, but I can't prove that."

The new numbers on Ma'aleh Adumim were the major factor behind a revised Peace Now representation of how much private Palestinian land was seized for West Bank settlers. In November, Peace Now put that figure at 38.8 percent; on Wednesday, it the new numbers reduce that figure to 32.4 percent, the group said.

Israel has long maintained that settlements were built on "state lands," or areas not registered in anyone's name, and that no private property was being seized for settlement building.

Peace Now said last month that Israel was building more than 3,000 homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and that while the number of settlements did not grow in 2006, their population had increased over the year by 5 percent.

Last year, the Peace Now settlement monitoring team published a survey which indicated that nearly three-quarters of the 102 outposts in the West Bank - 74 percent - are at least partly built on private Palestinian land.

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