The Israeli government is in the process of establishing – by stealth –the first new settlement complex (28 units, providing housing for some 100 settlers, or a 10% increase in the settler population in the area) in Hebron in more than a decade. It is doing so by taking properties seized years ago by the Israeli government for military use and handing them over to the settlers. This action directly contravenes Israeli law, which prohibits seizing lands for military needs and then using them for the purpose of settlements. It also contradicts the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants and constitutes a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law. In addition, allocating these properties to the settlers based on the argument that they belonged to Jews before 1948 in essence constitutes implementation of a “right of return” for Jews, at the expense of protected Palestinians tenants – even as Palestinians are denied any parallel “right of return” to properties they left or were expelled from before 1948.
On August 24th, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said that if reports about what is happening in Hebron are true, “…it would represent a deeply concerning step of settlement expansions…”
At the same time, the Israeli government is moving ahead with plans to “relocate” the illegal outpost of Amona. It plans to move the settlers off the privately-owned Palestinian land where the outpost it currently located – land that after years of trying, the Government was forced to admit it could find no “legal” way to expropriate and give to the settlers – and on to a nearby plot of privately-owned Palestinian land that it has now found a pretext to seize. In short, this case involves Israel taking new land from the Palestinians for the sole benefit of settlers. And it involves Israel acting not to punish and deter settler law-breaking, but instead rewarding and incentivizing such illegal actions. And it contributes to the growth of the settlement foothold deep in the West Bank, via the direct support and collusion of the Israeli government.
On August 11th, the Director of the State Department’s Press Office, Elizabeth Trudeau, said that the State Department was “deeply concerned by reports that the Israeli Government has begun the process to take over privately owned Palestinian land to relocate the illegal Israeli outpost of Amona.”
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