Israel to appropriate 400 hectares in West Bank for ‘state use’

Israel announces 'largest land appropriation for 30 years' just days after the Gaza ceasefire agreed

Israel has announced plans to expropriate 400 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank in a move Palestinian officials claim will cause more friction after the Gaza conflict.

The announcement concerning land south of Bethlehem, inside what Israelis call the Etzion bloc of settlements, comes after Israel determined the land was not cultivated with enough intensity for the Palestinians to maintain their ownership rights.

Signs have already been posted on the land by military administrators saying “state land – no trespassing”. Dror Etkes, head of the Kerem Navot NGO which specialises in West Bank land issues, said: “There is enough territory for a very big settlement with thousands of units.”

The notice published by the military gave no reason for the decision, but Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teenagers in the area in June.

The United States has criticised the annoucement and branded it counter-productive to peace efforts.

“We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity,” a State Department official said. “This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.”

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” the official said in Washington.

Peace Now, which opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement.

 

Danny Dayan, a settler leader, denied that rightful owners would be dispossessed, stressing that people with a claim can lodge an appeal within 45 days.

Other settler leaders praised the land declaration as an appropriate response to the murder of three Israeli teens. “The goal of the murderers of the three youths was to sow fear and disrupt our living routine and our answer is strengthening settlement and building,’’ Davidi Perl, head of the local settlements council, said.

In Israel’s view, building in the area would not constitute a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighbourhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut.

Construction of a major settlement at the location, known as "Gevaot", has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.

Peace Now said the land seizure was the largest announced by Israel in the West Bank since the 1980s. A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.

Israel has been long criticised by the international community for its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal.

Netanyahu has warned Palestinian civilians to move away from areas used by Hamas for rocketing and other activities lest they be caught up in the targeting of the Israeli military Netanyahu has warned Palestinian civilians to move away from areas used by Hamas for rocketing and other activities lest they be caught up in the targeting of the Israeli military (AP)

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to cancel the appropriation. "This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza," Abu Rdainah said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke off peace talks with Abbas in April after the Palestinian leader reached a reconciliation deal with Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates the Gaza Strip.

In a series of remarks after an open-ended ceasefire halted a seven-week-old Gaza war with Hamas on Tuesday, Netanyahu repeated his position that Abbas would have to sever his alliance with Hamas for a peace process with Israel to resume.

Israel has said construction at Gevaot would not constitute the establishment of a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighbourhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut, several miles down the road.

Some 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that the Jewish state captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

Ashdown Group: Microsoft Dynamics Consultant - Watford - £65,000 + Bonus.

£50000 - £65000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: Dynamics Expert...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - London - up to £48,000

£38000 - £48000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Senior ...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower