Israeli Army Orders Confiscation of Palestinian Land in West Bank

marksimonbrown mark at
Thu Oct 11 16:47:54 BST 2007

Israeli Army Orders Confiscation of Palestinian Land in West Bank,,2187261,00.html    By Conal 
The Guardian UK
    Wednesday 10 October 2007
Seizure would allow huge expansion of settlements. Move seen as rush 
to make changes before US summit.

    The Israeli army has ordered the seizure of Palestinian land 
surrounding four West Bank villages apparently in order to hugely 
expand settlements around Jerusalem, it emerged yesterday.

    The confiscation happened as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators 
met to prepare the ground for a meeting hosted by President George 
Bush in the United States aimed at reviving a diplomatic solution to 
the conflict.
However, critics said the confiscation of land suggested that Israel 
was imposing its own solution on the Palestinians through building 
roads, barriers and settlements that would render a Palestinian state 
    The land seized forms a corridor from East Jerusalem to Jericho 
and is intended to be used for a road that would be for Palestinians 
only. Analysts said the road would run on one side of the Israeli 
security barrier, while the existing Jerusalem-Jericho road would be 
reserved for Israelis.

    A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said it was necessary to build 
a road to link Bethlehem and the Judea region with Jericho and the 
Jordan valley area in order to "improve the quality of life" for 

    She said the road would be nearly 10 miles long and would be 
built on 145 hectares (357 acres) of state land and 23 hectares of 
private land that had been confiscated. She added that the army had 
designed the route to minimise losses to private landowners.

    Adam Keller of the Israeli peace group, Gush Shalom, said the 
confiscation of land belonging to the villages of Abu Dis, Arab al-
Sawahra, Nebi Musa and Talhin Alhamar would "rob many villagers of 
their sole livelihood" but would also "facilitate the big annexation 
plan known as E-1, which is aimed at linking the settlement of 
Ma'aleh Adummim with Jerusalem and cutting the West Bank in two."

    He said the confiscations were aimed at constructing 
a "Palestinian bypass road" that would "push the Palestinian traffic 
between Bethlehem and Ramallah deep into the desert and effectively 
bar them from the central part of the West Bank".

    The E-1 area has been marked out on Israeli government maps for 
years but the state has refrained from large scale development of the 
area. The only building to be completed is the proposed headquarters 
of the Israeli police in the West Bank.

    The plan for the area envisages 3,500 housing units and dozens of 
businesses which have yet to be started, although infrastructure such 
as roads and drainage is being constructed.

    Jeff Halper, an Israeli geographer who specialises in Israel's 
development of the West Bank, said it appeared that there was a rush 
to carry out as much work as possible before the US-sponsored meeting 
between Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Ehud Olmert, 
the Israeli prime minister, in Annapolis, Maryland, in November.

    "They want to push everything as far as possible before the 
November meeting because that will be seen as the starting point for 
everything," he said. "Anything done before that meeting will be set 
in stone. In general this has to be seen as part of a timeline in 
which Israel wants to get all its development of the West Bank 
finished before Bush leaves office."

    The land confiscation orders emerged as Palestinian officials 
claimed that a revised route of the West Bank barrier would eat into 
substantially more Palestinian land than the previous route.

    The negotiation affairs department of the Palestine Liberation 
Organisation said information released by the Israeli ministry of 
defence showed that the new route would annex 12% of the West Bank, 
compared with 9% previously.

    The biggest change in the route of the barrier is in the south-
east of the West Bank, adjacent to the coastline of the Dead Sea. The 
area is mostly uninhabited but could be useful for industry or 
tourism in the future.

    The new route also adds in two settlements, Nili and Na'aleh, 
which would result in five villages close to Ramallah being almost 
totally surrounded by the barrier, the PLO statement said. Israel 
says that the security barrier, which is in parts a high concrete wall
and in other parts a steel fence with wide ditches, is vital for 
ensuring security in Israel.

    However, the PLO statement said that the main aim of the barrier 
was "to consolidate Israeli control over the most critical parts of 
the occupied West Bank, including all of Palestinian East Jerusalem 
and vital land and water resources, all of which severely undercuts 
prospects for establishing a viable, independent Palestinian state." 

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