Officials: Israel is using state property law to escalate settlement expansion

Officials warned today, Thursday, of Israel's plans to escalate settlement expansion and intensify the confiscation of lands in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by converting it into a state property law.

The warnings came after Israel’s recent announcement of plans to build 1,481 new settlement units and nature reserves in the Palestinian territories, in conjunction with measures to transfer land ownership into state property.

According to officials, the plan to convert land into state property depends on confiscating it if it is not cultivated for three consecutive years without considering its legal status.

The activist in the Popular Committees Against Settlement said that the Israeli plan aims to control lands left by their Palestinian owners who have been reluctant to cultivate it after turning to other work.

Tohmallah pointed out that Israel recently announced the confiscation of 250 dunums of lands from the town of Kafr Aqab, south of Jerusalem, under the pretext that it is state property and that it has not been cultivated for more than three years in favor of “legitimizing” an Israeli settlement outpost there.

He warned that the plan to change the procedures for registering new lands in the West Bank would greatly facilitate for Israel to re-register more than 40 percent of the area of ​​the West Bank, and legalize illegal outposts and establish their ownership using old laws.

For his part, Director of the Maps Department at the Palestinian (Orient House) Society in Jerusalem, Khalil Tafakji, said that Israel uses a set of laws, part of which dates back to the Ottoman period and the British mandate over Palestine in order to serve settlement expansion.

Tafakji mentioned that Ottoman law considered lands as state property in the event that they were not cultivated or reclaimed for a period of three years, even if they were registered with private ownership.

He explained that Israel is using the aforementioned law to confiscate thousands of dunams of Palestinian lands, especially since many farmers have left their lands and turned to other professions.

Tufakji warned against using this as a cover in order to legitimize the Israeli outposts in the West Bank by transferring ownership of the lands built on them to state property.

In turn, the head of the Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission in Walid Assaf considered that the new Israeli registration procedures for land in the West Bank represent "imposing a de facto plan for the Century Deal," in reference to the American peace plan.

Assaf believed that the state property law is the most dangerous to the future of the two-state solution and the chances of establishing a geographically connected Palestinian state, as it is based on the legitimization of settlement expansion over large areas of the West Bank.

And the Israeli "Peace Now" movement has previously confirmed that the Israeli authorities are using laws such as "state property" and "absentee property" to plunder large areas in the West Bank without the need to provide compensation.

The settlement file is one of the main reasons for stopping the last peace negotiations between the two sides before mid-2014.


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