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Israel Announces New Settlements in the Occupied West Bank Banishing the Idea of an Independent Palestine

Despite international pressure around the issue of settlements as one of the core obstacles to the two State solution, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced the approval for the construction of a new settlement in the occupied West Bank. The approval follows the government decision from February 2023 to legalize nine settlements in the area of Gush Etzion, one of   them being the outpost of Mishmar Yehuda.

The move comes after the reverting position that brought back the U.S. into line with most of the world, who considers the settlements built in the ‘Six Day war of 1967’ as illegal. The decision of building new settlements has therefore been disapproved of by Washington, according to the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.

The plan for the first phase of the settlement construction provides for the building of 3,600 housing units on about 417 dunams for the religious-nationalist public, in the land acquired by an Israeli company called Mitzpeh Lebniyah. The company, whose registered owners were Argentinian citizens, claimed to have purchased the land from Palestinian owners around 1992.

In the second phase, the settlement is expected to expand to an additional 2,000 dunams, including 10,000 housing units more for the ultra-Orthodox population. The Israeli advocacy organisation, Peace Now, which monitors settlement through the specific programme Settlement Watch, recently learned that the Ministry of Construction has commissioned urban planners and architects to prepare plans for the new settlement at a cost of approximately 2.7 million shekels.

The plan was discussed on February 4, by the local planning and construction committee of the Gush Etzion Regional Council.Although the committee does not have the authority to approve plans but it recommends the discussion for such projects to the High Planning Council (HPC) of the Civil Administration. Therefore, the plan has not been legally approved yet.

Despite the legal gaps in the implementation process, the Israeli Government has been pushing for the improvement and enlargement of settlements by increasing the population of existing communities or establishing new communities. Smotrich, leader of the extreme right-wing Religious Zionist Party, declared himself in favour of Israeli resettlement of the Gaza Strip after the war in an interview on Israel’s Army Radio, and pledged to secure new constructions and expand settlements.

After a petition by ‘Bimkom and the Association’ for Civil Rights in Israel, revealed data from the Civil Administration that showed, 99.76% of state land in the West Bank was allocated for the needs of Israeli settlements, and hardly none was allocated for Palestinians.

The issue of state land was not a source of dispute between the military government and the Palestinian population during the first 12 years of Israeli military occupation as Israel adopted a static approach toward state land: the mechanism through which Israel took control of land for the purpose of building settlements was by issuing requisition orders for military purposes.

Requisition of the land does not change its ownership status. The land remains the owner’s property even when the state holds possession of the land. Since the state obviously does not need to claim property that belongs to it, the use of requisition orders indicates that the state authorities recognize that the land is a private Palestinian property. The international law allows an occupying country to temporarily take possession of the private land in an occupied territory, provided it does so to meet imperative military needs.

The Israeli Supreme Court known as the High Court of Justice (HCJ), accepted this claim until the case of Elon Moreh, first time in which the legal escamotage to provide land for settlements was questioned. Since the option of ending building settlements was not considered at all, the court’s ruling had the opposite effect of pushing Israeli policies on land requisition. Therefore, Israel found new ways to ensure land without violating the HCJ ruling.

The controversy was sold by relying on a dynamic interpretation of the “state land” label, based on the interpretation of the Ottoman Land Code of 1858, according to which if there is uncultivated land for a certain period, the official in charge of the state property in the civil administration issues a notice declaring it as state land. The public is given 45 days to make an appeal to prove land ownership .

While the Rabin government decided to arrest the process of declaring additional state land, the very same strategy was resumed in 1998 by the Netanyahu government. According to Israel authorities, since the land is uncultivated, it must have no owners; while, indeed, there are Palestinian owners who are not allowed to access the registration process as the land registry was suspended by Israel from 1967 to 2018. Also, the only registration in tax books does not prove the property ownership.

According to the NGO, Peace Now, on February 29, 654 acres of land in the villages of Abu Dis and el-Azariya in the Judean Desert have been declared state land, threatening Palestinian communities in the area. These lands are located in the southern area designated for the construction of at least 1,500 housing units.

The plan for new settlement building is not a far right-wing issue; rather, it must be contextualized in a growing feeling of intolerance toward Palestinian communities in Israeli civil society,  echoed in the extremist policies of the Netanyahu government.


The Mayor of the Gush Etzion Regional Council Shlomo Ne’eman declared that the ongoing discussion for Israeli expansion is “our answer to the nations of the world”. By doing so, instead of working to ensure a future of stability for both Israeli and Palestinians, Israel keeps perpetuating violence and colonial policies by addressing one of the core issues of the long protracted conflict, pushing further and further away the possibility of an independent Palestinian state, in defiance of negotiations and international resolutions.

Photo source: PeaceNow

Edited by:Jaya Jha

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