The Israeli government has seized large tracts of land in the occupied West Bank near the Dead Sea and the Palestinian city of Jericho, the Israeli nonprofit Peace Now, which tracks the spread of settlements in the region, and the Israeli Army Radio reported Tuesday. The seizure of 579 acres (234 hectares) of land is one of the largest land confiscations in the West Bank in recent years.
“Instead of trying to calm the situation, the government is adding fuel to the fire and sending a clear message to Palestinians, as well as to Israelis, that it has no intention to work towards peace and two states. [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu proves yet again, that settler pressure is more important to him than the deteriorating security situation,” Peace Now said in a statement released Tuesday.
Photos showing the Israeli declaration notices were later tweeted by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
— Palestine PLO - NAD (@nadplo) March 15, 2016
The occupied territories in the West Bank, which Palestine says should be part of its future state, have been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967, in direct contravention of the United Nations resolutions 242 and 446, which call for the withdrawal of the Israeli military from the region and an end to expansion of Jewish settlements.
According to an estimate by Peace Now, in 2015, construction of 1,800 housing units, including nearly 1,550 permanent structures, began in West Bank settlements. Of these, at least 32 houses were built on private Palestinian land.
“The area south of Jericho is located deep in the West Bank and far beyond the green line and the separation barrier,” Peace Now said in the statement. “Control over this area is meant to split the West Bank in half and prevent the possibility to establish a viable and contiguous Palestinian State.”
Despite repeated international condemnation, Israel has not only refused to clear the settlements, it has also termed attempts to label products manufactured in the settlements as “disguised anti-Semitism.”
The latest land grab drew criticism from the U.N. as well as Israel's close ally, the United States, which said that it severely undermined the prospects for a two-state solution.
“Such actions appear to point towards an increase in settlement activities and demonstrate that Israel is continuing to push forward with the consolidation of its control of the West Bank,” Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said. “The Secretary-General urges the Government of Israel to halt and reverse such actions in the interest of peace and a just final-status agreement.”