BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel’s civil administration declared private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank as “state land” in the first such designation since 2014, an Israeli watchdog reported.
Peace Now said in a statement on Thursday that the administration designated 30 dunams (7.4 acres) of land belonging to the Palestinian villages of Jinsafut and Deir Istya as “state lands” last month.
While Israeli settlements have already expanded and built on the land in question, the group said that such a declaration is an effort by the Israeli government to “retroactively legalize construction” for surrounding settlements.
The last declaration of “state land” by the administration took place in August 2014, when 4,000 dunams (990 acres) of Palestinian land west of Bethlehem were allocated for the expanding Gush Etzion settlement bloc.
Peace Now reported that over 6,000 dunams of Palestinian land have been officially labelled as “state land” since Benjamin Netanyahu has stood as Prime Minister.
The recent declaration of “state land” in the occupied West Bank comes as discriminatory land allocation continues in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel last week demanded that the Israel Land Authority penalize the Israeli company Be’Enumah for “discriminatory marketing of residential units” in Jerusalem.
According to the rights group, Be’Enumah was advertising apartments “solely to the national-religious public,” constituting discrimination against secular, Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) and non-Jewish individuals.
The group also criticized an advertisement released by the company that reportedly mocked Mizrachi Jews and professed that their housing development would not allow “neighbors of that sort.”
ACRI called on the Israel Land Authority to follow through on its obligation “ensure that public lands are equally accessible to all citizens.”
Land allocation in East Jerusalem is dictated by the Israeli government’s policy of “Judaization” that has been carried out since the state occupied the area in 1967.
Only 14 percent of East Jerusalem is zoned for Palestinian residential construction, ACRI says, while one-third of Palestinian land has been confiscated since 1967 to build illegal Jewish-only settlements.
While Netanyahu said in a visit to the US last month that settlements were not an obstacle to the peace process, Palestinian leadership has continued to demand a freeze to settlement growth.
Expansion of Jewish-only settlements throughout the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem have made a contiguous Palestinian state impossible, and are illegal under international law.