- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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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