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Israel appropriates massive tract of West Bank land

Takeover from five Palestinian villages is biggest West Bank Land appropriation in 30 yeras, says Peace Now; settlers laud Netanyhahu. Ya'alon, government.

by Chaim Levinson and Jack Khoury       31 August 2014       Haaretz

Gush Etzion - AP - Sept. 9, 2010.

Construction work in Elazar, a settlement in the Gush Etzion bloc, in July 2010. Photo by AP

Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank announced Sunday the takeover of nearly 1,000 acres [4,000 dunams] belonging to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem. The move clears the way for construction of a new settlement named Gvaot.  

Peace Now, which monitors settlement construction, said it was the largest Israeli appropriation of West Bank land in 30 years.

David Perl, head of the Gush Etzion local council, said the “declaration of some 4,000 dunams as state land paves the way for the establishment of Gvaot, a new city in Gush Etzion. I want to congratulate the prime minister and the government of Israel on their promotion of the initiative, and the defense minister and head of the civil administration on getting the decision approved.”

The appropriated land belongs to five Palestinian villages in the Bethlehem area: Jaba, Surif, Wadi Fukin, Husan and Nahalin.


Israel to appropriate 3,799 dunams (988 acres) of West Bank land, Aug. 31, 2014. Photo by Haaretz

The announcement follows the cabinet’s decision last week to take over 988 acres (3,799 dunams) in response to the June kidnapping and killing of three teenage Jewish boys by Hamas militants in the area.

The move is the latest of a series of plans designed to attach the Etzion settlement bloc to Jerusalem and its environs. Construction of a major settlement, known as Gvaot, at the location has been mooted by Israel since the year 2000. 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.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called on Israel to cancel the takeover. “This decision will lead to more instability. This will only inflame the situation after the war in Gaza,” Abu Rudeineh said.

Israel maintains that construction at Gvaot would not constitute a new settlement because the area is officially designated a neighborhood of a long-standing settlement, Alon Shvut. However, the area of Gvaot lies several miles away from Alon Shvut.