Peace Now: 90% of Israeli settlements exceed legal boundaries

Date: 06 / 07 / 2007 Time: 12:51

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Peace Now, Israel’s oldest extra-parliamentary peace movement, reported on Friday that 90 percent of settlements exceed their boundaries even though settlers are allocated large areas of land that are within settlement jurisdiction.

Israeli West Bank settlers are assigned vast amounts of land, but only use 9 percent of the land allocated by their government has been built upon, and only 12 percent is used at all. Despite the huge land reserves, the majority of settlements (90 percent) exceed their boundaries. About one-third of the territory that is used lies outside settlement jurisdiction.

According to the report, this practice is allowed by the Israeli government in order to expand the territory that is inaccessible to Palestinians. The state allots huge tracts of land to the settlements, disproportionate to their size, to prevent Palestinians from living in those areas. Once these areas are closed to Palestinians, the settlers expand into territory that lies outside their jurisdiction and which is often privately owned by Palestinians, says Peace Now.

The compilers of the report, Dror Etkes and Hagit Ofran of Peace Now’s Settlement Watch, found that this policy violates the Oslo Accords, which the Israeli government signed in 1993. The segment of the Accord that addresses the settlement issue stipulates that no party is to take unilateral steps to change the territories, until a final resolution had been negotiated.

However, even before peace talks reached stalemate, Israel began expanding the settlements’ jurisdiction, the report says.

The report lists 164 settlements, outposts and industrial zones in the West Bank of which 92 had their area expanded after 1993, so that the number of settlers could increase.

Moreover, Israel’s methods contradict official government statements, such as the one Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, made in a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan in May 2007, in which he promised that “the construction of settlements is only being carried out within the approved designated lines.”

In order to bypass the prohibition of the building of any new official settlements, the Israeli government now resorts to building so-called ‘outposts.’

Israel keeps the areas of jurisdiction on which settlers may legally build ambiguous on purpose, charges Peace Now, most likely because portions of the built-up parts of the settlements are on Palestinian land, such as the older settlements of Ofra and Psagot, in the West Bank, near Ramallah.

Through this misleading use of the term ‘jurisdiction’, say Etkes and Ofran, the settlements can expand unchecked, whereby areas on which Palestinians can live will become smaller and smaller.

This is contrary to Israel’s official position that no new settlements have been established anywhere in the West Bank for over a decade.

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