Report - Israeli Settlers Now
Control 40% Of West Bank

By Joshua Brilliant
From the International Desk

TEL AVIV, Israel (UPI) - Built-up Israeli settlement areas in the West Bank cover less than 2 percent of the land, but government planners have intentionally given settlers control of more than 40 percent, the Israeli human rights monitoring group B'Tselem said Monday.
Moreover, the settlement layout prevents the possibility of creating a territorial continuum between Palestinian towns and cities, reducing the economic and agricultural development potential of Palestinians, B'Tselem Chairman Anat Biletzki told a news conference Sunday.
In a report entitled "Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank," B'Tselem said that although the settler's built-up areas cover only 1.7 percent of the West Bank, Jewish settlements are grouped into regional councils whose jurisdiction covers a significantly larger area.
According to the report's findings, 6.8 percent of the West Bank lays within the boundaries of the Israeli national outline plan for settlement, while an additional 35.1 percent of the land -- beyond the outline's borders -- falls under the jurisdiction of Jewish local and regional councils.
An estimated 380,000 Israelis live in areas captured from Jordan during the 1967 war, in and around East Jerusalem and in settlements throughout the West Bank. According to settlers' estimates, 227,000 people lived in West bank and Gaza Strip settlements at the end of 2001. Their figures, however, do not include the East Jerusalem areas.
B'Tselem's report said the Israeli government built thousands of housing units under the pretext of meeting "natural growth needs," but the report suggests construction far outstripped those needs. Between 1993 and 2000 the number of settlers in the West Bank excluding East Jerusalem almost doubled, B'Tselem said.
Israel has used various legal and bureaucratic mechanisms to assume control of over half the West Bank lands, most of which was used "to establish settlements and create reserves of land for the future expansion of the settlements," the report said.
The report alleged the government manipulated Ottoman laws of 1858 to declare lands "state owned," seized lands for military needs, declared them abandoned assets and helped private citizens buy land from Palestinians.
In order to encourage people to move to the settlements, the government has offered generous loans for purchasing apartments, part of which is converted into grants; leases land more cheaply than elsewhere; reduces income tax for settlers and companies that move there; and offers further grants to investors.
In the year 2000, the government's average grants to Jewish local councils in the West Bank were 65 percent higher than those given to their counterparts inside Israel, the report said.
Grants to settlement regional councils were, on average, 165 percent higher than those given to regional councils inside Israel proper, the report added.
B'Tselem said this settlement drive violates international humanitarian law that prohibits population transfers. The report called for the dismantling of all settlements, with financial compensation for the residents.
However, Yesha council of settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, said later the council, "expresses regret for not having managed to implement more energetically the Zionist ideal of settling between the sea and the Jordan River."
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