Israel Defense Ministry plan earmarks 10 percent of West Bank for settlement expansion (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Akiva Eldar 03/30/12)
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For years Israel’s Civil Administration has been covertly locating
and mapping available land in the West Bank and naming the parcels
after existing Jewish settlements, presumably with an eye toward
expanding these communities.
The Civil Administration, part of the Defense Ministry, released its
maps only in response to a request from anti-settlement activist Dror
Etkes under the Freedom of Information Law.
In some places the boundaries of the parcels outlined in the maps
coincide with the route of the West Bank separation barrier.
The state has argued before the Supreme Court and the International
Court of Justice in The Hague that the route of the separation
barrier was based on Israel’s security needs. But Civil
Administration’s maps and figures, disclosed here for the first time,
suggest the barrier route was planned in accordance with the
available land in the West Bank, intended to increase the area and
population of the settlements.
A total of 569 parcels of land were marked out, encompassing around
620,000 dunams (around 155,000 acres) − about 10 percent of the total
area of the West Bank. Since the late 1990s, 23 of the unauthorized
outposts were built on land included in the map. The Civil
Administration is endeavoring to legalize some of these outposts,
including Shvut Rahel, Rehelim and Hayovel.
Etkes believes this indicates the settlers who built the outposts had
access to the administration’s research on available land − more
proof of the government’s deep involvement in the systematic
violation of the law in order to expand settlements, he says.
The maps name numerous communities that do not exist. These include
Shlomzion, on land belonging to the Palestinian town of Aqraba, east
of Nablus; Lev Hashomron, on the land of Kafr Haja, between Nablus
and Qalqilyah; Mevo Adumim, on the lands of al-Azariya and Abu Dis;
and Mitzpeh Zanoah and Mitzpeh Lahav, in south Mount Hebron.
The names of several sites suggest they are earmarked for the
expansion of existing settlements, although some of the parcels are
several kilometers distant from their namesakes. These include
Immanuel Mizrah, Elkana Bet, Beit Aryeh Gimmel and Tekoa Sheet’hei
Mir’ey, among others.
The maps also mark 81 sites on 114,000 dunams in areas A and B, which
are under Palestinian civil control, indicating the Civil
Administration began identifying available land before the Oslo
Accords. But these parcels have not been updated in several years
because Israel cannot build settlements on them.
All the other areas − 506,000 dunams in Area C, have been updated in
the past decade. This implies the administration earmarked the sites
as reserves for future use, says Etkes.
More than 90 percent of this land is east of the separation barrier,
beyond the main settlement blocs.
“This means the administration currently updates the ‘land bank,’
flouting the peace process, which is based on the two-state
principle,” Etkes said.
Most of the marked areas − 485,000 dunams in area C − are classified
as state lands. About 7,600 dunams are classified as “Jewish land”
from before 1948, and 12,800 dunams are unclassified. way. Presumably
the administration sees them as state lands, says Etkes.
Under international pressure Israel has drastically reduced new
claims of land for the state. In a letter to Nir Shalev of Bimkom −
Planners for Planning Rights, the Civil Administration said that in
2003-09 a total of 5,000 dunams were declared state lands, as opposed
to hundreds of thousands of dunams in previous decades.
Some 375,000 dunams in Area C are not included in the jurisdiction of
the settlements, which take up some 9.5 percent of the West Bank.
A 2007 Peace Now report indicated that only nine percent of the land
in the settlements’ jurisdiction were in use. The administration’s
map reveals the existence of another land reserve. Although only a
small part has been officially allocated to the settlements, it is
being constantly updated by the administration.
The Civil Administration said in a response that the maps are a data
bank that is updated from time to time and does not indicate plans to
expand settlements, which is a complex procedure requiring
discussions and permits. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 03/30/12)
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