Largest West Bank Land Seizure in Decades – Israel Speeds Up Settlement Activity

Illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. (Photo: ISM Palestine, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“The size of the area designated for declaration is the largest since the Oslo Accords, and the year 2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land,” according to Peace Now.

The Israeli government has appropriated around 23,700 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank since the beginning of the year, the largest appropriation of land since the Oslo Accords in 1993, according to an Israeli settlement watchdog.

“The size of the area designated for declaration is the largest since the Oslo Accords, and the year 2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land,” the Peace Now organization said in a statement on Wednesday.

On June 25, Israel declared 12,700 dunams (1,270 hectares) in the Jordan Valley as state land.

This is in addition to the declaration on February 29 of 2,640 dunums (264 hectares) of land between the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Keidar, the declaration of 8,000 dunams (800 hectares) on March 20 in an area adjacent to the current declaration, as well as the declaration of 170 dunams (17 hectares) near the Herodium, the organization said.

The declaration was signed on June 25, but only published on Wednesday, Peace Now said.

“This is the first declaration on state lands made under the authority of Hillel Roth, the Civilian Deputy appointed by Minister (Belazel) Smotrich to whom most of the powers of the head of the Civil Administration were transferred,” the watchdog said.

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‘Speeding Up’ Settlements

It was done under the management of the Settlement Administration “and intended to speed up and increase settlement activity in the territories.”

In a recording obtained by Peace Now from a conference, Finance Minister Belazel Smotrich said “This is something that will change the map dramatically. (… the declarations we will make this year) are roughly ten times the average in previous years, I estimate that by the end of the year between 10,000 and 15,000 additional dunams will be declared (as state lands).”

Smotrich on Wednesday lauded the development “along with the slated approval of thousands of settlement housing units over the next two days, saying the moves were designed to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state,” the Times of Israel reported.

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“Building the good country and thwarting the establishment of a Palestinian state. Mata is meeting this morning to approve over 5,000 housing units. Israel Lives!” he posted on X.

The declaration of state land is one of the main methods by which the State of Israel seeks to assert control over land in the occupied territories, Peace Now emphasized.

“Land declared as state land is no longer considered privately owned by Palestinians in the eyes of Israel, and they are prevented from using it,” it said.

Additionally, Israel leases state land “exclusively” to Israelis.

‘Fight Against Entire World’

Last week, the Israeli Cabinet approved steps proposed by Smotrich aimed at “legalizing” settlement outposts in the West Bank and imposing sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.

The plan includes measures against the Palestinian Authority, the legalization of five settlement outposts in the West Bank, and the issuance of tenders for thousands of new housing units in settlements.

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Peace Now said it was clear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Smotrich “are determined to fight against the entire world and against the interests of the people of Israel for the benefit of a handful of settlers who receive thousands of dunams as if there were no political conflict to resolve or war to end.”

According to Palestinian figures, about 725,000 settlers live in 176 Jewish-only settlements and 186 outposts in the occupied West Bank.

Under international law, all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are considered illegal.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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