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Just 0.7% of State Land in the West Bank Has Been Allocated to Palestinians, Israel Admits

World  (tags: ME, israel, palestine, politics, West Bank, settlements, "State land", cultivated land, manipulations )

- 1816 days ago -
Over the past 33 years the Civil Administration has allocated less than one percent of state land in the West Bank to Palestinians, compared to 39 percent to settlers, according to the agency's own documents submitted to the High Court of Justice.

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Angelika R (143)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 9:51 pm
The West Bank includes 1.3 million dunams ‏(approximately 325,000 acres‏) of “state land,” most of which is allocated to Jewish settlements.

The declared policy of the previous Netanyahu government was to remove Jewish construction from private Palestinian land in the West Bank and to approve all construction on state lands.

According to the classification of the Civil Administration, a small amount of “state land” was registered with the Jordanian authorities until 1967. But most declared “state land” was declared as such after 1979.

The need for such a declaration emerged in October 1979, when the High Court struck down as unconstitutional the state’s practice of seizing Palestinian land, ostensibly for “military needs” but in practice in order to establish Jewish settlements.

It was after 1979 that the process of the wholesale declaration of territory as state land began. According to the law in the West Bank, any land with continuous agricultural cultivation for at least 10 years becomes the property of the farmer; land under cultivation cannot be seized by the state.

Although the Civil Administration team charged with determining which lands are cultivated is supposed to base their conclusions on testimony and aerial photos, a senior official in the Civil Administration conceded recently in the Ofer Military Court that the decisions are political.

The hearing at which the official was speaking was over the state lands declared with regard to the Hayovel outpost. The latter has been at the heart of a High Court case for over seven years. The state had decided to retroactively authorize Hayovel, but aerial photos clearly show a number of houses and cultivated land, and the road to Hayovel goes through private Palestinian land. The state therefore devised a method of declaring the area between cultivated spots, for example, between trees, as “uncultivated” and thus it could deem it state land. Palestinians claiming ownership of the land petitioned against the decision through the organization Yesh Din and attorney Michael Sfard.

In a court hearing in January an official from the Civil Administration’s oversight unit, Gilad Palmon, told the court: “The official who decides on the declaration [of state land] is at the political level, the defense minister. Another Civil Administration official, Yossi Segal, said: “The political echelon decides the size of the area.”

Three years ago the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Bimkom − Planners for Planning Rights asked the Civil Administration, by dint of the Freedom of Information Law, for figures on the extent of state lands in the West Bank. The Civil Administration refused to provide the information and the organizations asked the court to intervene.

The Civil Administration’s representatives told the court that there are 1.3 million dunams of state land in the West Bank and that it could not provide additional data. Jerusalem District Court Judge Yoram Noam did not accept the response and instructed the agency’s representatives to provide more information.

The Civil Administration subsequently provided the court with the following details: 671,000 dunams of state land is still held by the state. Another 400,000 dunams were allocated to the World Zionist Organization. Most of the Jewish settlements, both residences and agricultural land, are on this land.

Another 103,000 dunams of state land were allocated to mobile communications companies and to local governments, mainly for the construction of public buildings.

Utilities such as the Mekorot water company, the Bezek communications company and the Israel Electric Corporation received 160,000 dunams, 12 percent of the total state land in the West Bank.

Palestinians have received a total of 8,600 dunams ‏(2,150 acres‏), or 0.7 percent of state land in the West Bank.

The Civil Administration told the court that of this, 6,910 dunams were in the Jenin area, land allocations made a long time ago that are now in areas A and B ‏(under full Palestinian control or Palestinian civilian and Israeli military control, respectively‏). One dunam was allocated for a stone quarry; 630 dunams in the Bethlehem area were allocated for Bedouin; 1,000 dunams were allocated in the Jericho area and 10 dunams were allocated in Tul Karm.

Nir Shalev, a researcher for Bimkom, said: “Israel has claimed for years that the settlements are built only on state land, a claim that is repeatedly shown to be inaccurate. The data on allocations to the Palestinians, which the Civil Administration was forced to reveal, show the other side of coin: Israeli policy determines that state lands in the West Bank are for the use of Israelis only − mainly settlers.”

Because state land is essential for the expansion of settlements, a great deal of pressure is exerted to influence the decision of where such lands are declared. Haaretz checked and found that even when the state claims that certain lands are state lands, the process of determining usage beforehand is careless, and land declared as state land also includes private Palestinian land and cultivated land. One example of such carelessness regards the large settlement of Givat Ze’ev, northwest of Jerusalem. Next to the settlement is a home belonging to a Palestinian man, Saadat Sabri, who also cultivated a plot of land nearby.

In 2006, when building began on the separation barrier, bulldozers destroyed his fields. Although aerial photos clearly showed the land was cultivated the state declared the land to be state land in 2010 and joined Sabri’s plot to Givat Ze’ev. Sabri petitioned the High Court against the move.

Researcher Dror Etkes found that land important to the expansion of settlements was declared state lands, including territory near Susya, Tekoa, Ma’aleh Adumim, Kiryat Arba and other Jewish communities.

In the center of Ma’aleh Adumim, for example, is land that aerial photos from the 1970s show as partially under cultivation. Yet in 2005 the entire area was declared state land and is now built on.

“The findings, which are a sampling, prove the claims that Palestinian landowners have been consistently presenting over the past few decades: Under the aegis of the broad declaration of lands as state lands, which includes almost a million dunams, Israel has taken over extensive cultivated areas, which were stolen from their owners through administrative decisions over which public and legal oversight is minimal, because they were supposedly not cultivated.”

The director of Yesh Din, Haim Erlich, said: “Yossi Segal, who is in charge of abandoned property in the West Bank, reveals the painful and ugly fact that we have been aware of for some time: The survey, which is supposed to be professional, has become a political tool.”

The Civil Administration did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

mag.w.d. Aichberger (34)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 9:55 pm
cannot currently send a star to Angelika...
occupation-forts in occupied territory, often euphemized as "Settlements" or even "[nice] Jewish Neighborhoods" are illegal only by opinion of, amongst others, international consensus (except USA and... and maybe timbutuktu, too?) ICJ, UN, and Israhell's very own judiciary and politicians

. (0)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 12:35 am
Why is Netanyahu not in jail?

Tamara Hayes (185)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 6:27 pm
This is so damn wrong and my heart goes out to the Palestinian peoples. Talk about crimes against humanity. And Israel thinks they can pull us in to support their war? I don't think so!

Angelika R (143)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 6:38 pm
Tamara-we all heard the prez' remarks on that... I am glad this article was in a renowned Israeli newspaper, wonder when the usual crowd will appear here and try to insult me again..

Robert O (12)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 9:42 pm
How terrible for them! How can there peaceful coexistence with one group constantly under the oppressive thumb of another?

Angelika, I'm afraid you probably won't have to wait too long since I've seen those types lurking on Care2 and their blatant dismissal of anything that conflicts with their beliefs that are obviously rooted in hatred and intolerance that they always try to rationalize with half truths and outright fabrications phrased in very uncivil and insulting tones. Sigh.
Thanks for the article!

Past Member (0)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 10:18 pm
Mindboggling. This ia an injustice and in my opinion a crime. This Israeli yahoo should be in jail. No wonder the warfare and terrorism just keeps on trekking along. Obama just keeps on fuelling the flames. A real shame . Great article,thx Angelica!!

Caroline S (78)
Friday March 29, 2013, 12:17 am
"How can there peaceful coexistence with one group constantly under the oppressive thumb of another? "
I agree with you, Robert O.!
Thanks Angelika

Stephen Brian (23)
Friday March 29, 2013, 12:23 am
The information here is misleading without context. "State land" in the West Bank refers to 1300 square km acres out of 5860 total. While I could not find a map of what is considered to be "state land", it appears to be primarily the de facto annexed region around Jerusalem, where suburbs of the city on its eastern side are considered "settlements" and appear to account for the bulk of the land on that "state land" designated for settlements.
Here is a map of the Jerusalem metropolitan region:
The primarily brown regions east and north of the central city are in the West Bank. Those cover roughly half of the land which, according to Wiki, totals 652 square km, making the suburbs in the West Bank account for roughly 326 square km. Half of that would account for every dunam reserved on "state land" for settlements, which makes sense as the area in the Jerusalem Metropolitan Region is actually sparsely populated on the north and east sides. The territory in the "state land" allocated to Jews appears to be, at least primarily, just natural sprawl from Jerusalem. It is entirely normal for suburbs of a country's cities to fall under the same jurisdiction as the cities themselves, and the rest of the country. Circumstances may be abnormal, but urban expansion is not some kind of malicious political land-grab. If it were, a lot of city-planners would have some explaining to do.

There is more. The vast majority of the West Bank is, like most of the rest of the region, uninhabitable. A substantial part of the habitable territory was made so by settlers andthe Zionist agencies. Away from the infrastructure of a well-developed city, With, if my numbers are not too old, about 8% of Israel inhabitable, it is a bit surprising that only 0.7% of some region would be allocated to Palestinians as one would expect the number to be about 8%. However, depending on the geography and the Palestinian economy's ability to support irrigation-infrastructure, that 0.7% may be a large fraction of the entire habitable territory of the "state land" away from Jerusalem. This actually raises another issue: If settlers can afford more irrigation than can Palestinians, then settlers would have a lot more effectively habitable land accessible than would Palestinians so settlements could be set up without coming into conflict with Palesitnians' living-space.

Julie F (68)
Friday March 29, 2013, 8:16 am

Kit B (276)
Saturday March 30, 2013, 2:43 pm

Well, Stephen if you did that research than you should know that the Palestinians do not have that access to water or arable farming lands. That sort of defeats the purpose of defending a corrupt policy, now doesn't it?

Angelika R (143)
Saturday March 30, 2013, 3:58 pm
Thx Kit for saying exactly what I would have commented, were I not tired of folks jumping all over me and name calling...

Süheyla C (234)
Saturday March 30, 2013, 6:31 pm
Thank you,

Dana W (9)
Saturday March 30, 2013, 9:01 pm
Sadly, everytime there seems to be progress between Israel and Palestine, something happens that sets one side or the other off again. Too bad the leaders on both sides can't set aside their political agendas in favor of the welfare of the region or their people.
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