JERUSALEM (JTA) – Peace Now, citing government figures obtained through a freedom of information request, reported that 99.7 per cent of allocations of state land in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank have been granted to Jewish settlers.
More than 347,000 acres, or 40 per cent, of Area C, the part of the West Bank under Israeli military and civil control, has been declared state lands since 1967. Of that, 167,000 acres have been set aside for public use, which includes the construction of settlements. Only 400 of those acres, or 0.24 per cent, have been earmarked for the use of Palestinians, The New York Times reported.
“We took the most important and precious resource – the land – for our use only,” Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran told The Times.
In response, the Civil Administration, which oversees the West Bank, told The Times that applications for the allocation of state land are routinely submitted by all sides, “both Palestinian and Israeli,” but that the number of Palestinian applications “is generally very low.”
Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to the Israeli Foreign Ministry [and former Israeli ambassador to Canada], told The Times that Israel was entitled to use and build on the land, and doing so did not violate international law.
“According to The Hague regulations, as long as the land is not privately owned, then the occupying power has got the right to enjoy it,” Baker said.
Settlers note that their homes sit on land on loan from the Israel Lands Authority and must be relinquished if required by an eventual political settlement.
Peace Now, a liberal NGO that advocates for a two-state solution, counters that declaring territory “state lands” is a legal loophole meant to bypass international law saying an occupier must not confiscate land for the needs of the occupying people.