2,026 Settlement Homes Built on Private Palestinian Land, Right-wing Study Finds

Study conducted in support of possible legislation to expropriate land from Palestinians in exchange for reparations.

A file photo of the Amona outpost.
Olivier Fitoussi

Some 2,026 structures in the West Bank were built on privately owned Palestinian land, according to a study conducted by the right-wing organization Regavim and submitted to Knesset members ahead of deliberations on legislation aimed at expropriating land from Palestinian owners.

Regavim claims that its mission is to "preserve national lands." Until the recent election, it was run by Bezalel Smotrich, who has since joined Knesset on the Habayit Hayehudi roster. One of Smotrich's primary goals in the Knesset will be passing legislation to expropriate land from Palestinian owners in exchange for reparations.

Smotrich will seek to pass such legislation before December 2015, the date on which the Supreme Court has ordered the government to evacuate the Amona outpost, and demolish nine houses in the settlement Ofra. Smotrich has even stated that demolishing the Amona outpost could likely cause a governing coalition to collapse. When similar legislation was passed in 2012, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thwarted it out of fear that it would lead to prosecution in the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Regavim supports the proposed legislation, claiming that demolishing a house or two would not solve the problem, which it says is much larger. The organization conducted a study, examining aerial photographs of private Palestinian land, which it then submitted to Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud). According to the report, the 2,026 structures located on private Palestinian land include 1,232 permanent homes and 794 mobile homes. Roughly 1,500 families live in these structures. The study was first reported by Arutz Sheva.

The settlements mentioned in the report include Ofra with 530 houses, Beit El with 289, Eli with 166, Mechmesh with 133, Elon Moreh with 128, Psagot with 98, Kochav Ya'akov with 83, Kedumim with 71, Kokhav Hashahar with 65, Neve Tzuf with 52, Otniel with 47, Shavei Shomron with 45, Mitzpeh Yeriho with 45, Yitzhar with 43, Maon with 34, Tapuah with 27, Adam with 25, Beit Hagai with 25, Susya with 23, Neve Daniel with 19, Tekoa with 17, Har Bracha with 15, Nokdim with 15, Pnei Haver with 13, Ma'ale Amos with five houses, and Kedar with seven.

In response to inquiries, Regavim issued a statement that read "it is irresponsible to publish data that appears in the report; any discussion on this sensitive issue should be conducted with appropriate discretion in the proper forum. Regavim has presented its stance on this issue to the officials relevant in finding a solution for the complex situation that has arisen in these places."