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Israel announces major land grab in West Bank

A kew minister vowed to continue backing the settlement movement that is illegal under international law

The Israeli government has designated nearly 2,000 acres in the West Bank as state-owned land in a move described by rights groups as the biggest land grab on occupied Palestinian territories in decades.

The expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank is illegal under international law. In 2016, the UN Security Council described them as “a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security.” 

Nevertheless, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich argued that the declaration of state-owned land in the Jordan Valley on Friday was “an important and strategic issue.”

“While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right to Judea and Samaria and the country in general, we promote the settlement movement with hard work and in a strategic manner across the country,” Smotrich said in a statement, as quoted by the Times of Israel.

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According to local media, the designation of plots of land as Israeli paves a way for the construction of settler houses, as well as for commercial development.

Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now described the declaration as the largest since the 1993 Oslo Accords, adding that “the year 2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government gave a green light to the construction of more than 3,400 new settler homes this month, drawing more criticism from the UN and the Palestinian Authority.

“The West Bank is already in crisis. Yet, settler violence and settlement-related violations have reached shocking new levels, and risk eliminating any practical possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian State,” UN human rights chief Volker Turk said in his report to the Security Council on March 8.

Smotrich said in February that the expansion of settlements was a legitimate response to Palestinian terrorist attacks. “Our enemies know that any harm to us will lead to more construction and more development and more of our hold all over the country,” he wrote on X (formerly Twitter).


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