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Israeli Court Orders Eviction of Bedouin Village for New Predominantly Jewish Neighborhood

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An Israeli court has ordered the evacuation of some 550 residents of an unrecognized Bedouin village in southern Israel, to build a new neighborhood for the city of Dimona.

The Be’er Sheva Magistrate’s Court accepted the Israel Land Authority’s claims earlier this week, requiring the residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Ras Jrabah to evacuate by March 2024.

Basing his ruling on aerial photos and other evidence, Judge Menachem Shahak rejected the villagers’ claims that they have been living in the area since the British Mandatory Palestine. Shahak claimed the evidence presented in court shows that the area was first inhabited only during the 1970s.

He also ordered the villagers to pay 117,000 shekels in legal charges. Their lawyers, all from the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, said they would appeal to the district court.

The Israel Land Authority (ILA) first tried to evacuate the village 30 years ago. The current suit was filed again by the ILA due to the Dimona municipality’s intention to build a new neighborhood where the village now stands, which is expected to contain about 11,000 housing units on around 2,471 acres of land, with half the area intended to be built.

The villagers asked to be integrated into the new neighborhood in a rural complex and adapted to their lifestyle. The judge rejected the request on the grounds that he cannot intervene because only the Bedouin Authority is authorized to offer them solutions.

The judge also rejected the residents’ claims of racial segregation and said that each of the evacuees has the right to purchase land and housing units in the new neighborhood. However, the plan was irrelevant for a community whose members do not have the financial opportunity to do so and intend on living together.

The Bedouin Settlement Authority has offered compensation to the villagers for their eviction with 5,360 square foot lots in the towns of Qasr al-Sir, but this was rejected because these lands are amid an ownership dispute. The authority also proposed to transfer them to the Negev town of Arara, but this was also denied because it could damage the social fabric of the village.

“They’ll move us to a place we’re not used to and then the problems will start,” said Ras Jrabah resident Ibrahim Al Hawashleh last year to Haaretz. “Many Bedouin who’ve moved to other Bedouin cities have deteriorated into crime.”

“There’s no crime, violence or drugs here,” Ibrahim added. “We won’t let them change our lives and our culture. We’ll stay and raise animals and earn our living from animals. That’s how we were raised. We’re Bedouin and the sons of Bedouin.”

Freij Al Hawashleh, one of the elders of Ras Jrabah, also told Haaretz last year that “All our lives we’ve helped people from Dimona and have had a good relationship. We supplied them with water from the well, goat’s milk, they bought sugar and tea from us and got any help they wanted. What happened now that they want to house people at our expense?”

“They want to take our land and humiliate us and they expect us to be silent, but we’ll stay here and we’ll die here,” he added.

The Adalah Center said in response that the ruling is “an illustration of how Israel’s land regime and the legal proceedings establishing it, create a methodical system of racial segregation that amounts to the crime of apartheid according to international law.”

The center further stated that, as in the cases of other Bedouin villages that were displaced, such as Umm al-Hiran in the Negev, “the verdict clearly shows that the rights protected by Israel’s Basic Laws are not sufficient to defend the constitutional rights of Palestinians, or to heal the racist principles at the basis of Israel’s settlement policy.”

Article link: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-07-28/ty-article/.premium/israeli-court-orders-eviction-of-bedouin-village-for-new-predominantly-jewish-neighborhood/00000189-9bad-de97-af9f-fbaf00500000
Article source: Haaretz | Nati Yefet | Jul 28, 2023

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Israel is rapidly expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This Australian man is among them

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Jewish Australian Michael Lourie spent years building his dream home set amongst sprawling mountains, with views stretching all the way to the sparkling Dead Sea.

He describes it as an eco-villa constructed using raw materials like hemp. His home and his community are a source of pride and joy.

But Mr Lourie’s paradise has been built in the West Bank — the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel — and under international law, the home is illegal.

Mr Lourie is what’s commonly known as a settler.

Settlements are overwhelmingly Jewish communities built in Palestinian territories captured by Israel in 1967.

Mr Lourie’s settlement is called Pnei Kedem, and not only does he live there, but he also founded it — the only Australian to do so.

Back in 2000, he was looking for land in the West Bank when he came across the block, near another settlement, with a view of the Dead Sea and “fell in love with it straight away”.

Along with some other families, Mr Lourie set up some mobile homes before building permanent structures, without permission from Israeli authorities.

For years Mr Lourie applied for retroactive approval for some of the buildings on his land, and this year Pnei Kedem was formally recognised as a settlement by Israel.

It includes plans for 120 homes, and Mr Lourie says it currently houses about 70 families, including a senior cabinet minister in Israel’s ultra-nationalist government.

He says most of the people who live there are religious, right-wing Jews, who believe they have a right to settle in the West Bank.

“There’s a negative connotation to the word settlers, it’s upsetting,” Mr Lourie said.

“The majority of people who are so-called settlers are law-abiding citizens who are very right-wing, who believe that the land belongs to them, who believe that we should be here.

“And I took the route of saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to try and do something and improve the Jewish population over here in Judea and Samaria.'”

Israeli and international law are at odds over West Bank settlements

Judea and Samaria is how religious Jews refer to the parcel of land known internationally as the West Bank.

 

Like most settlers, Mr Lourie believes the land was given to him by God and that Palestinians have no territorial claim, including for a future Palestinian state.

“It’s a false statement to say, ‘it’s land that is not yours’,” he said.

Israeli law defines settlements as legal — despite the International Court of Justice finding the communities are in breach of the Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law.

Jerusalem-based human rights group B’Tselem argues the sole purpose of settlements is to permanently establish Jewish Israelis on land that Palestinians want as a future state.

B’Tselem researcher Drot Sadot said Palestinians were often driven off or deprived of their land by settlers.

“The international law is very clear. You cannot take citizens of an occupier and move them to an occupied territory — it is illegal,” she said.

“Settlements are one of the most efficient ways for Israel to take over Palestinian land.

“It also limits their freedom of movement because around the settlements there is security and the Israeli Army guarding entrances, and there are roads that they can’t go through.”

Israel’s most right-wing government in the country’s history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, is embarking on a plan to drastically increase settler numbers in the West Bank.

In the first six months of 2023, more housing units have been approved than any other year in the last decade, according to anti-settlement activist group Peace Now.

Last month, the Australian government issued a rare statement expressing grave concern over the new settlement housing approvals, and calling on Israel to reverse the expansions.

Peace Now estimates there are 465,400 Israelis currently living in the West Bank across 132 settlements, excluding East Jerusalem.

Palestinians nearby accuse settlers of intimidation

Palestinian man Ahmad Abu Shanab owns land bordering the Pnei Kedem settlement.

He is often too afraid to visit his own property, but he took the ABC to see his olive and almond trees.

Shortly after arriving at his land, a settler with a loaded M16 assault rifle slung over one shoulder approaches, asking what Mr Abu Shanab is doing there.

The settler calls the Israeli Army, who do not accuse Mr Abu Shanab of committing any offences but demand to see his identification papers.

Mr Abu Shanab says he regularly experiences this kind of intimidation when visiting his land near the settlement.

“All the time [they] make a problem for us. Because they want to see this land without Palestinians, but Palestinians are here,” he said.

“They sometimes come, many settlers, and attack us or try to quarrel with us, or create problems with us because they want us to not enter our land and not come to our land.”

After half an hour, the army and settler leave, but Mr Abu Shanab is shaken by the interaction.

The soldiers and settler decline to be interviewed.

‘The Jewish people have come home’

According to B’Tselem, intimidation and attacks against Palestinians have been increasing in frequency and intensity.

This year, Palestinian cars have been set alight, and homes also burned to the ground.

Some settler attacks have been described as retaliation for Palestinian-led violence.

In March this year, settlers rioted in the Palestinian village of Huwara, avenging the killing of two Israeli brothers by a Palestinian gunman.

During the settler rampage, dozens of homes were torched and a local Palestinian was shot dead.

Ms Sadot said the escalation in settler violence aligned with the election of Israel’s right-wing government, which includes several cabinet ministers who are settlers themselves.

“Those are not a few bad apples, as some would like to say,” she said.

“We’re talking about settlers coming towards Palestinians, to their homes, to their land, invading their homes and then attacking them violently.

“It is a fully supported and funded phenomena by the state.”

Mr Lourie condemns the violent attacks on Arabs living in the Palestinian territory.

But he stands firm in his belief that his home wasn’t built on Palestinian land, and he supports the expansion of settlements across the West Bank.

“The Arabs can stay here as long as they understand that the Jewish people have come home.”

Article link: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-07-30/australian-settlers-in-israel-west-bank/102642486
Article source: ABC | Middle East correspondent Allyson Horn in the West Bank | 30.7.23

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Australia, Canada, UK ‘deeply concerned’ over Israeli settlements

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The governments of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have said they are “deeply concerned” about recent events in the occupied West Bank, including Israel’s decision to expand its illegal settlements there amid rising violence, saying they “further reduce the prospects for peace”.

“The continued expansion of settlements is an obstacle to peace and negatively impacts efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution. We call on the Government of Israel to reverse these decisions,” the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a joint statement released on Saturday.

Israel’s defence ministry planning committee that oversees settlement construction approved more than 5,000 new settlement homes on June 26. Settlements are considered illegal under international law.

The foreign ministers’ statement also expressed concern about the changes to the settlement approval process approved on June 18, in which far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was given sweeping powers to expedite their construction, bypassing measures that have been in place for 27 years.

The settlement expansion plans have occurred as violence in the region has intensified in recent weeks.

On June 19, Israeli forces stormed the Jenin refugee camp, deploying the use of helicopter gunships in the occupied West Bank for the first time in 20 years. That raid killed seven Palestinians and injured 91 others.

Palestinian gunmen then targeted Israelis, while Israeli settlers carried out a string of attacks on Palestinian villages.

The Australian, Canadian and British governments condemned violence targeting both Israelis and Palestinians.

They also welcomed the joint statement by Israeli security chiefs equating the Israeli settler attacks to “nationalist terrorism”.

Nearly 750,000 Israelis live in 250 illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Article link: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/7/1/australia-canada-uk-deeply-concerned-over-israeli-settlements
Article source: Al Jazeera | 1 Jul 2023

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Israel approves thousands of West Bank building permits

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Israel’s nationalist-religious government has approved the construction of about 5700 additional housing units for Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank despite overseas pressure to halt settlement expansion that the United States views as an obstacle to peace with Palestinians.

The plans for approval of the housing units in various areas of the West Bank were approved by Israel’s Supreme Planning Council.

Final approvals were given to 818 units including while the others were in various stages of approval.

Jewish settler leadership praised the decision.

“I thank the Israeli government for the continued development of Israeli settlement,” the head of the West Bank Gush Etzion Regional Council and chairman of the Yesha Council Shlomo Ne’man said.

“Especially in these difficult days, this is the most appropriate Zionist answer to all those who seek to destroy us.”

Most countries deem the settlements, built on land captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, as illegal.

Their presence is one of the fundamental issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as their capital.

Israeli settlers cite Jewish historical connections to the land.

Peace talks that had been brokered by the United States have been frozen since 2014.

Since entering office in January, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has approved the promotion of more than 7000 new housing units, most deep in the West Bank.

“The Israeli government is pushing us at an unprecedented pace towards the full annexation of the West Bank,” the settlement watchdog Peace Now said in a statement.

A surge of violence in the past weeks in the West Bank included rampages by scores of Israeli settlers on Palestinian towns and villages that drew international condemnation and concern from the White House.

The Israeli military said on Monday that an IDF soldier was suspected “of taking part in a violent confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians” last week in the Palestinian town of Umm Safa.

“The soldier was apprehended and investigated by the Israel police,” the military said.

Article link: https://www.bing.com/search?pglt=43&q=Israel+approves+thousands+of+West+Bank+building+permits++The+Canberra+Times++Canberra+ACT&cvid=71e6a36d268441ecbb15f5f8738e6cee&aqs=edge..69i57j69i60.478j0j1&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=U531
Article source: The Canberra Times / AAP | June 27 2023

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US ‘deeply troubled’ as Israel plans to approve thousands of homes in West Bank

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The United States says it is “deeply troubled” by the Israeli government’s tabling of plans to approve thousands of building permits in the occupied West Bank and has called on Israel to return to dialogue aimed at de-escalation.

The plans for approval of 4,560 housing units in various areas of the West Bank were included on the agenda of Israel’s Supreme Planning Council that meets next week, although only 1,332 are up for final approval, with the remainder still going through the preliminary clearance process.

“We will continue to develop the settlement of and strengthen the Israeli hold on the territory,” said finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who also holds a defence portfolio that gives him a leading role in West Bank administration.

Most countries deem the settlements, built on land captured by Israel in 1967 as illegal. Their presence is one of the fundamental issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinians seek to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as their capital. Peace talks that have been brokered by the US have been frozen since 2014.

The US state department said it was “deeply troubled” by the latest move, which comes despite US pressure to halt the settlement expansion that Washington sees as an obstacle to peace. It called on Israel to return to dialogue aimed at de-escalation.

“As has been longstanding policy, the United States opposes such unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve and are an obstacle to peace,” a department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, said in a statement.

Since entering office in January, the nationalist-religious coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, has approved the promotion of more than 7,000 new housing units, most deep in the West Bank.

It also amended a law to clear the way for settlers to return to four settlements that had previously been evacuated.

In response to the Israeli decision on Sunday, the Palestinian Authority – which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the West Bank – said it would boycott a meeting of the joint economic committee with Israel scheduled for Monday.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, after Israel’s withdrawal of soldiers and settlers, condemned the move, saying it “will not give [Israel] legitimacy over our land. Our people will resist it by all means.”

Jewish settler groups welcomed the announcement.

“The people have chosen to continue building in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, and that is the way it should be,” said Shlomo Ne’eman, mayor of the Gush Etzion regional council and chairman of the Yesha Council, using Israel’s biblical names for the West Bank.

Article link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/19/us-deeply-troubled-as-israel-plans-to-approve-thousands-of-homes-in-west-bank
Article source: The Guardian / Reuters | 19 Jun 2023

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US warns Israel against Jewish settlements expansion

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged continued US commitment to both Israel’s security and a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but warned the expansion of Jewish settlements would be an obstacle to peace.

In a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC, Blinken also cautioned that moves toward annexation of the Israeli-occupied West Bank or that disrupt the status quo at holy sites would hurt the prospects for a two-state solution.

He didn’t name the specific holy sites he was referring to.

“Settlement expansion clearly presents an obstacle to the horizon of hope that we seek,” Blinken said to muted response from the audience.

“Likewise, any move toward annexation of the West Bank, de facto or de jure, disruption of the historic status quo at holy sites, the continuing demolitions of homes and the evictions of families that have lived in those homes for generations damage prospects for two-states.

“They also undermine the basic daily dignity to which all people are entitled.”

The top US diplomat drew widespread applause when he outlined the longstanding American commitment to Israel and said all options were on the table when it came to preventing Israel’s No. 1 enemy, Iran, from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Washington would continue to work toward helping Israel integrate into the region as a means of enhancing security, stability and prosperity in the Middle East, Blinken said.

He stressed the importance of normalisation of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“The United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Blinken made an oblique reference to the contentious judicial reform proposal that led to massive protests in Irsael in recent months. US President Joe Biden publicly opposed the proposal, which would give the Israeli government greater control over appointments to the country’s Supreme Court.

“We’ll continue to express our support for core democratic principles, including a separation of powers, checks and balances, and the equal administration of justice for all citizens of Israel,” he said.

Article link: https://www.areanews.com.au/story/8223051/us-warns-israel-against-jewish-settlements-expansion/
Article source: AAP / The Area News (Griffith) | 6.6.23

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Israeli Cabinet Advances Plans to ‘Judaize’ Galilee, Expand West Bank Settlements

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The government is advancing a number of steps to encourage Jewish families to move to communities in northern Israel, a region with a large Arab population.

As part of the plan, which cabinet members describe as an attempt “to save Jewish settlement in the Galilee,” the government will expand a controversial law that allows small residential communities to choose who is allowed to join them.

The cabinet will also advance a resolution to subsidize the price of land in communities suffering from “demographic or security hardships.”

The government coalition hopes to complete parts of the plan, part of which is based on coalition agreements between Likud and the Religious Zionism party, in the next few weeks.

“Rural settlement, which was intentionally established to take over land and Judaize the Galilee, is disappearing because of the leap in land prices,” Settlement and National Missions Minister Orit Strock of the Religious Zionism party told Haaretz. “To make the communities younger, we need to dramatically reduce the price of land.”

The high socioeconomic ranking of communities in the north is deceptive, and does not reflect the true status of the residents, said Strock. “We need to forcefully lower the prices to enable young families to live there. Otherwise, we will get more people who will buy summer homes there, and that’s not what we need.”

The Jezreel Valley and Misgav regional councils, in the Galilee area, recently sent notices to 18 communities in their jurisdictions to reduce the number of kindergartens next year due to the low number of children in the area. The government sees this move as evidence that these community settlements in the north are aging, and the fact that, due to several reasons, chief among them the high cost of housing, young couples cannot and do not want to move to them.

The first component of the plan is a major expansion of the Admission Committees Law, an amendment to the Cooperative Societies Code legislated in 2010. Its goal was to bypass a Supreme Court ruling forbidding residential communities from leasing land only to Jews; the law, as it currently stands, allows communities in the Galilee and Negev of up to 400 families to run Admission committees that examine every transfer of land ownership in the community. In doing so, they determine who will be allowed to live there.

Members of Knesset claimed this week that communities that have reached the cap of 400 families have frozen the admission of new residents due to the ban on choosing who is allowed to move in. The government, therefore, aims to expand the law so that it applies to communities with up to 1,000 families, or alternatively will allow any such community to sell up to 1,000 plots of land through admission committees. A 2019 report by the Knesset Information and Research Center said that many communities continued to operate the admissions committees even after they reached the quota.

The Admission Committees Law does forbid disqualifying any candidate for residence on the basis of race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or political affiliation, but the wording of the law allows committees to reject candidates with the justification of being “inappropriate for the social and cultural fabric” of the community.

MK Ahmad Tibi of Hadash-Ta’al said that the law serves the purpose of filtering out potential residents by race. Under the auspices of the law, “about 900 communities are out of the question today when it comes to housing for an Arab citizen in the State of Israel,” he said.

The bill to expand the law to communities of 1,000 families passed its first vote in the previous Knesset, and it set a quota of 600 families per community. In March, the Knesset began to continue the legislative processes. The version Strock is advancing, which extends the law to communities of up to 1,000 families, will be prepared in a separate Knesset committee before being brought directly for its second and third votes in the full Knesset.

The expansion of the law could pose a challenge to the opposition, as a number of opposition Knesset members support the bill in principle. MK Alon Schuster of the National Unity Party has stated that although he opposes the term “Judaizing the Galilee,” Israel must “allow communities, most of the residents in which are Jewish, to develop” at a Knesset Economic Affairs Committee in March.

Schuster clarified at the time that he supports the law. “We must allow for organic growth. This is very important, and I’m pleased about the shared path the opposition and coalition are taking” on the law, he said.

The version of the law that Religious Zionism is currently advancing, though, would also apply to West Bank settlements. “The regions we added are areas in which there is rural settlement that needs strengthening,” Strock told Haaretz. “There, it’s not a matter of the high cost of living, but the opposite – in these areas, we need to erase the question of the socioeconomic status from the lexicon. The State of Israel needs to take an interest in people living in these places. We don’t need to go according to misery, but according to the national interest,” she added.

Strock said that there is no justification for government aid for rural settlement in areas that are in higher demand. “The Gezer Regional Council [in central Israel] – let’s say that if it were to be wiped off the face of the Earth and there would be just cities there, no one would be too sorry,” she said. “We don’t have a strategic national interest in the existence of this settlement. It takes up land that, as far as real estate is concerned, is unjustified.”

‘No hardships’ in Arab communities

Two weeks ago, the cabinet quietly organized a group to draft a proposal for a government plan to subsidize the cost of land in communities that suffer from “demographic or security hardships” within 30 days. The team is helmed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The cabinet was asked to support the efforts of Construction and Housing Minister Yitzchak Goldknopf to lower housing prices in the north, but ministers from Religious Zionism said that this was insufficient, and demanded that Netanyahu establish a committee to draft a different proposal. The cabinet’s decision to establish such a committee was not released to the media.

In addition, the Prime Minister’s Office is expected to examine providing further incentives, including subsidizing afternoon day care, with the goal of encouraging young families to move to the north.

Strock explained the decision to advance this aid for Jewish communities alone, saying that Arab settlement does not suffer from similar hardships. “There are no longer small Arab villages at all. Everything that is called an Arab village has been the size of a city for a long time,” she said. “The homogeneity that is so important to residential communities exists naturally in Arab communities. You won’t find Druze from Daliat al-Carmel settling in Sakhnin, or the opposite, and not even Bedouin from the Galilee who would settle in Hura” in the Negev. The Arab towns have no limits on land, said Strock. Regarding Druze towns, Strock admits they do not have enough surplus land to expand, and that “this must be solved.”

Tibi responded to Strock’s statements, saying that “The claim that there is no housing problem in Arab towns in the north is a bad joke in the best case, and a racist pretense in practice. Arabs who leave their communities to live in Carmiel, Lod, Haifa, Nof Hagalil or Hadera do so because of hardships – there is no land and no quality of life. The growing crime rate is also a reason for migration,” he said. “Arab communities have housing issues, but other possibilities are closed to us.”

Another proposal, which has attracted substantial criticism from environmental organizations, would see representatives of the settlement and agriculture ministries added to the Higher Planning Council and regional planning and building committees in areas of national priority in the Negev and Galilee.

A government source said that the objective is “to make the voice that represents rural settlement heard and become a part of the discussion on planning.” But environmental groups, led by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Zalul Environmental Association and the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, argue that adding these ministry representatives will shift the balance on planning committees in favor of supporters of development at the expense of preserving nature and the environment. That is why the green groups are demanding to add representatives of civil society organizations or experts from academia in the relevant fields to the planning bodies, too.

Article link: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-06-05/ty-article/.premium/israeli-cabinet-advances-plans-to-judaize-galilee-expand-jewish-wb-settlements/00000188-8a67-dded-a58e-abe7a3490000
Article source: Haaretz | Jonathan Lis | Jun 5, 2023

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Netanyahu Gov’t Pledges to Advance Transfer of Swaths of West Bank Lands to Pre-1948 Jewish Owners

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A clause in the coalition agreement between Likud and Religious Zionism says the government will instruct the head of the army’s Central Command to enable assets currently held by the Civil Administration to be transferred to their pre-1948 Jewish owners. This move is expected to facilitate settlement expansion and allow Israel to gain control over Palestinian-leased buildings.

According to estimates obtained by the NGOs Peace Now and Bimkom, this move could affect about 13,000 dunams (3,250 acres) of land in the West Bank and about 70 buildings in Hebron, said to be owned by Jews before 1948.

Most of the land is in Gush Etzion (Bethlehem area) and north of Jerusalem, but other plots are in the area of Nebi Samuel, Batir and Beit Furik. Several parcels of land are in Area B, which is defined as land under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control according to the Oslo Accords.

When Jordan controlled the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, it nationalized all property formerly belonging to Jews. Today, those properties are under the control of the commissioner for government properties within the Civil Administration and designated as “enemy lands.” Since the 1990s, Israeli government policy has dictated that the properties’ legal status would have to be determined by a future peace agreement rather than be returned to Jewish owners.

Land designated as “enemy lands” cannot be included in land-use planning, according to a source close to the settlers. Over the last several years, the source said, Israeli settlers have been able to amend that status by pointing out a flaw in the Jordanian government’s land registration system.

In 2018, a report published by a team of legal scholars led by Judge Haya Zandberg found that the government had allocated lands for settlements in the past in some instances.

According to the source, one possible target of this move could be the building of the wholesale market in Hebron, where the government plan to erect 70 housing units for Jews has met a few problems. While the West Bank was under Jordanian rule, the site was leased to the Hebron municipality as a protected tenant. After Israel’s occupation of the West Bank in 1967, that status was maintained.

After the 1994 Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, in which Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians worshipers, the area was declared a military zone, and vendors who rented space from the city were barred from entering. Since then, the order has been repeatedly renewed.

In December 2019, then-Defense Minister Naftali Bennett announced the beginning of the planning process for the new Jewish neighborhood there. Accordingly, the Civil Administration demanded the municipality, which still holds protected-tenant rights, to give its permission to destroy the complex, to which the municipality refused.

Samar Shehadeh, an attorney representing the Hebron municipality, said that despite the city’s refusal, Israel has not asked the courts to revoke the protected-tenant status yet. He warned that a transfer of the ownership of buildings to Jewish owners could harm the Palestinian tenants’ rights.

“As an administrative authority, the commissioner cannot just do whatever he wants. He is subject to proper management rules, High Court review, and a reasonableness standard the government is trying to eliminate,” Shehadeh said.

If ownership is indeed transferred to the commissioner, no one will be interested in preserving the rights Palestinian tenants currently enjoy, he added.

Noam Arnon, spokesman for the Jewish settlement in Hebron, told Haaretz that many of the relevant buildings in Hebron are empty. As an example, he cited Beit Ezra, a building that the settlers had taken over in the past and later were ordered to leave.

A Jewish family filed an appeal in 2011 seeking to have their pre-1948 Hebron properties returned to them. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal, and ruled that they were not entitled to compensation.

Article link: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-01-12/ty-article/.premium/netanyahu-govt-pledges-to-advance-transfer-of-west-bank-lands-to-pre-1948-jewish-owners/00000185-a011-dce6-a5e5-bf9be5d40000
Article source: Haaretz | Hagar Shezaf | Jan 12, 2023

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