Exclusive; West Bank Israel seizes 800 hectares of Palestinian land in occupied West Bank

Occupied West Bank
Israel seizes 800 hectares of Palestinian land in occupied West Bank

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s announcement comes despite international pressure against Israel’s building of illegal settlements.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich lives in an Israeli settlement and has consistently backed settlement building [File: Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]
Published On 22 Mar 2024
22 Mar 2024
Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has declared 800 hectares (1,977 acres) in the occupied West Bank as state land, in a move that will facilitate the use of the ground for settlement building.

The announcement on Friday came as United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

ing in the West Bank, despite growing international opposition.

“While there are those in Israel and in the world who seek to undermine our right to Judea and Samaria and the country in general, we promote settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country,” Smotrich said, using Biblical names for the area of the West Bank that are commonly employed in Israel.

The denomination of the land in the Jordan Valley as state land follows a similar designation of 300 hectares (740 acres) in the Maale Adumim area of the West Bank, which the Palestinians want as the core of a future independent state.

The US said last month that Israel’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank was inconsistent with international law, signalling a return to longstanding US policy that had been reversed by the previous administration of Donald Trump.

The change brought the US back into line with most of the world, which considers the settlements built on Palestinian territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war to be illegal. Israel itself disputes this view, citing the Jewish people’s historical and Biblical ties to the land.

Earlier this month, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk said, “The establishment and continuing expansion of settlements amount to … a war crime under international law.

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