Israel announced on Sunday the appropriation of nearly 1,000 acres of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The land grab is thought to be the largest in 30 years and would pave the way for an expansion of the Jewish settlement bloc in the area. “The land, which is near the small Jewish settlement of Gvaot in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem, has now officially been declared ‘state land,’ as opposed to land privately owned by Palestinians, clearing the way for the potential approval of Israeli building plans there,” the New York Times reports.
“The announcement follows the cabinet’s decision last week to take over the land in response to the June kidnapping and killing of three teenage Jewish boys by Hamas militants in the area,” Haaretz reports. “Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site, and 523 are currently under construction. Ten families now live on the site, which is adjacent to a yeshiva.”
“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” a State Department official said in Washington told Reuters. “Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, condemned the announcement and called for a reversal of the land claim, saying that it would ‘further deteriorate the situation,’” the Times reports. “The land appropriation has quickly turned attention back to the Israeli-occupied West Bank and exposed the contradictory visions in the Israeli government that hamper the prospects of any broader Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”
“Israel has said construction at Gevaot would not constitute the establishment of a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighbourhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut, several kilometres down the road,” according to Al Jazeera.