Israeli Settlements Sprawling: Report

CAIRO — Under the watchful eye of the Israeli government, some 90 per cent of the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank have sprawled beyond the official boundaries set up by Tel Aviv, seizing more Palestinian land and preempting the future status of the occupied territory, said an Israeli report cited by The New York Times on Saturday, July 7.

"It became another tool to achieve the military goals of the occupation, which is to allocate the land and hold it," said Dror Etkes of the Israeli rights group Peace Now which commissioned the report.

The report said that there are about 164 Israeli settlements in the West Bank; namely, 40% of the occupied territory.

Some 92 of these settlements have been expanded or redefined their area of jurisdiction since the 1993 Oslo Accords, it said.

More than 10 percent of lands seized for the settlements is owned privately by Palestinians and only 12 percent of the allocated land is used, the report added.

Israel National News has reported that a group of Israeli organizations were planning the construction of five new settlements in the West Bank.

One settlement will be built in the suburb of the town of Efrat and will accommodate for 2,500 homes.

Another settlement will be built in south of Efrat on the road to Al-Khalil town.

Under the Oslo Accords, Israel is obliged not to take unilateral steps to alter the situation in the occupied Palestinian lands before a final peace settlement.

The international community regards all Jewish settlements in the West Bank illegal.

The internationally-backed roadmap peace plan demands a halt to settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Theodor Meron, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser in 1960s, warned Tel Aviv in the wake of the 1967 Middle East war that the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian lands would be illegal and contravene international laws.

Watchful Eye

The report accused the Israeli government of turning a blind eye to the seizure of adjacent Palestinian lands by Jewish settlers.

"There is a pattern of a failure to enforce the law on the settlers," said Etkes. "But the lack of enforcement isn’t an accident."

He said that the move aims to prevent Palestinian construction in the occupied West Bank and to add a zone of separation between the Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents.

Israel is building a separation wall — a mix of electronic fences and concrete — which will eventually snake some 900 kilometers (540 miles) along the West Bank and leave even larger swathes of its territory on the Israeli side.

Israel has spurned a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice and a demand by the UN General Assembly to tear down the wall and compensate the Palestinians affected. Tel Aviv argues that the wall is necessary for its protection.

But the Palestinians see the wall as a new land grab and an attempt to pre-empt the borders of their much-hoped future state.

The Palestinians want to establish their independent state in Gaza and West Bank, including Al-Quds (East Jerusalem).

But Israel insists to annex major settlement blocs in the West Bank under any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

( + News Papers – July 7, 2007)

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