Israel moving close to annexing West Bank Jewish settlements, rights group warns

Middle East Monitor  /  August 31, 2023

The Israeli government on Sunday decided to grant land to the illegal Mevo’ot Jericho/Araiha and Amichai Jewish settlements through the Settlement Division, disregarding international law and taking steps towards annexation of Palestinian land, warned Israeli NGO Peace Now.

The government revealed its plans to formalize the process of land allocation, aiming to facilitate the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian land. This, Peace Now warned, advances annexation and formalizes the Settlement Division.

The Settlement Division is part of the World Zionist Organization and is a non-governmental organization which is funded by the Israeli government. It is authorized to create settlements in the West Bank on land licensed to it by the Civil Administration.

“Formalizing the Settlement Division as the official entity in charge of land allocation to settlers will be another significant annexation act of Area C in the West Bank,” Peace Now said.

Warnings about its operations come as Peace Now submitted a petition seeking transparency in land allocations by the Settlement Division, saying: “Allowing the Settlement Division to manage these lands in the occupied territories is comparable to entrusting a fox with guarding the henhouse. This essentially amounts to privatizing land management, which is inconsistent with democratic governance and is unlawful within occupied territories according to international law.”

“The Settlement Division has previously been directly implicated in the appropriation of Palestinian private lands and continues to assist settlers in acquiring extensive lands within the territories, often without public tenders and behind closed doors. It operates autonomously, ignoring the governmental oversight bodies that are supposed to supervise its activities,” the statement added.

Palestinian anti-settlement activist Ghassan Daghlas warned last month that the Israeli occupation authorities are planning to annex land to increase the size of the illegal Amichai settlement after the Israeli occupation army began confiscating 1,480 dunams of land belonging to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Daghlas said that the land was seized after appeals from the owners, who grow olive and almond trees there, were rejected. The area was declared a security zone by the army to secure nearby illegal Jewish settlements and outposts.

Estimates indicate that about 700,000 Jewish settlers are living in 164 Jewish settlements and 116 illegal Jewish outposts in the Occupied West Bank. The United Nations considers all Jewish settlement activities illegal.