B’Tselem will be releasing a study on Tuesday (perhaps timing it to coincide with Bibi’s meeting with Obama the same day) revealing that fully one-fifth of the built landscape in the settlements sits on privately owned Palestinian land. The territory claimed by settlements occupies fully 42% of the entire West Bank. The group makes this finding based on Israeli government documents from the civilian and military administrations.
Here is a translation of the press release accompanying the report:
B’Tselem publishes today a report, By Hook or By Crook, which analyzes the methods by which Israel controls the land in the West Bank for the sake of the settlements. The report relies on official government documents, among them maps by the military and civil administration, and reports of the State Controller…
From this official documentation arises the fact that although the buildings in the settlements occupy only 1% of the West Bank, the claimed boundaries of the settlements incorporate 42% of the total land mass. The settlement enterprise is characterized fundamentally by a cynical and even criminal exploitation of the principles of international law, local tradition, military and civilian orders, all this in order to maximize control over the greatest amount of land to the greatest extent possible.
Israel has insisted for years that it builds settlements solely on state lands and not on private Palestinian land. However, an overlay that compares these government maps with 2009 aerial photographs of the settlements shows that 21% of them are built on land which is recognized by the State as being in private Palestinian hands.
What this report makes crystal clear is that it would be exceedingly easy for Israel to return much of the territory of the West Bank to Palestinian control. Only 1% of it actually contains homes and infrastructure that form the basis of the settlements. The rest is unbuilt, but of course annexed to settlements for possible future expansion. So the next time you hear a settler supporter bellyache about the trauma and dissension that would wrack Israeli society if it withdrew from the settlements, just remember that statistic: 1%.
Bibi is undoubtedly hoping his Tuesday White House meeting will be a love fest. Perhaps this report will tone down the ardor somewhat. When Pres. Obama jawbones Bibi to renew the settlement freeze beyond September, he can use these figures to bolster his argument.
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