News from Peace Now's (Israel) Settlement Watch:
This morning the Army Radio reported that Minister of Defense Ya'alon authorized the declaration of 1,545 dunams
south of Jericho as state land. This land has been overtaken by settlers years ago for the purpose of agricultural
cultivations. According to the Army Radio the declaration will be published in the coming weeks. This is the
largest declaration since August 2014, when 4,000 dunams in the Etzion Bloc area were declared as state
lands, resulting in an international storm of criticism.
This approval comes after several declarations and confiscations in the last few weeks as two orders were signed on 23 December 2015, intended to take over new lands in the Qalqilya region and Qusra region southeast of Nablus (see details below).
Peace Now: Continued land confiscation by the Netanyahu government is a diplomatic catastrophe. The government's decision is another step on the way to destroy the possibility for a two state solution. Netanyahu is being dragged by Naftali Bennett and begins a silent annexation of area C.
Expropriation order for 25.7 acres (104
dunams) of the Azun village, east of Qalqilya, for paving the ~2.5 Km “Nabi Elias Bypass.” The road is
intended to improve the route between Israel and the settlements of Karnei Shomron and Kedumim, by passing the
Palestinian village of Nabi Elias.
Officially, the expropriation is intended not only for the settlers, but also for the Palestinian residents of the area. According to international law, an occupying country may not expropriate resident lands unless it is intended for use by the occupied population. Applying this method, Israel has expropriated thousands of acres for roads used by settlers and Palestinians, but the construction of such roads considered the travelling needs of the settlers and not necessarily those of the Palestinians. It is safe to assume that had the roads been planned toward developing the West Bank for the Palestinian residents, the roadmap would be different.
On 18 October 2015, the government decided to promote the pavement of four bypass roads for the settlers, including the Nabi Elias bypass. The project cost is estimated at 48M NIS and the budget was approved by the Ministry of Finance Exceptions Committee in November.
The main highway (Rte. 55) currently goes through the village of Nabi Elias. The government states that the road is intended to solve safety issues on the current road. If safety was indeed a consideration, the government could have solved the problem along the current route, without paving a new road and expropriating lands. The pressure for paving the new road was exerted by the settlers for whom driving within the Palestinian village is a security issue.
The Palestinian landowners intend to appeal the expropriation, but past experience demonstrates that such appeals are usually dismissed.
Click here to see the confiscation order.
Declaring ~13 acres as State Lands for The Migdalim Settlement
On 23 December 2015, the Head of The Government Property in Judea and Samaria declared ~13 acres near the Migdalim settlement as state land. According to the government, this is not a new declaration of state lands, but rather a “delineation amendment” of an old declaration pursuant to a review by the Civil Administration’s Blue Line Team. Migdalim was built on ~74 acres of Qusra and Jorush lands, which were declared state lands in 1984 and 1990. It is important to note that the delineation amendment includes a deduction of ~12 acres from the original declaration.
In recent years, the Civil Administration has been conducting delineation amendments for old state land declarations inaccurately issued in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The delineation amendments are conducted by a professional team within the Civil Administration called the “Blue Line Team.” Thus far, dozens of declarations were amended, adding and removing thousands of acres from state lands. Until now, the Civil Administration acted without informing the landowners and without enabling them to appeal their rulings.
The Supreme Court is currently presiding over a petition filed by landowners from Lubban al-Sharqiya together with Bimkom and Yesh Din (SCJ 7986/14). The petitioners claim that the Blue Line Team delineation amendments comprise a new declaration and that a declaration must be made to enable the landowners to appeal and attempt to prove their ownership of the land. In response to the petition, the government announced a new procedure by which Blue Line Team amendments would be published and the public would be afforded the opportunity to submit its reservations – but the procedure does not allow for appeals similar to the appeals of state land declarations. According to the petitioners, the procedure does not provide the landowners a real opportunity to appeal the decision and it is subject to an arbitrary ruling by the Head of the Civil Administration.
This is the first time that the new procedure is exercised although the petition is still pending. A hearing of the petition is scheduled for February 2016.
Click here to see the official announcement.
In addition, in November 2015, another 30 dunams were declared as state land near the settlement of Karnei Shomron.