Return to the Statistics (home) page Learn more about us. If Americans Knew: what every American needs to know about Israel/Palestine
Statistics History Current Situation US Interests Media Analysis About Us
Top Border

printer symbolPrint Article
letter symbolEmail this Page


Israeli Settlements on Palestinian Land

Israeli Settlements ‘Still Expanding’ Unchecked

By British Journalist Jonathan Cook
Reprinted from Arab News
July 11, 2003

Israeli settlements are still being established in Palestinian territory according to Israeli peace activists; and dismantling operations are, say the activists, a charade, even though an end to their expansion is a key feature of the US-backed road map to Middle East peace.

The claim, by the left-wing group Peace Now, is based largely on the work of Dror Etkes who, each week for the past two years, has traveled hundreds of miles by car or plane, scouring the hills and valleys of the West Bank and the coastal plain of the Gaza Strip in search of the tiny new Jewish settlements springing up all over Palestinian territory.

Since March 2001, when Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister, there has been a surge in settlement building. In addition to the 150 or so settlements authorized by the state (though illegal in international law), there are some 115 unlicensed outposts — and the number is growing almost daily, says Peace Now. At least 60 of these outposts were created during Sharon’s premiership, says 34-year-old Etkes. But he claims that the policy is not unique to Sharon: Successive governments of the left and right wanted to create facts on the ground that would undermine the spirit of the Oslo accords and make a Palestinian state unrealizable.

By placing settlements and outposts around the main Palestinian population centers, says Peace Now, Israel has gained control over nearly half the territory of the West Bank, including its vital water resources.

To encourage Israelis to move into the territories, the governments of Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and now Sharon offered huge subsidies: A study last year by Zvi Ekstein, an economist at Tel Aviv university, suggested that settlers received up to 16 times the government funding available to ordinary Israelis.

The first phase of the US-backed road map, which hopes to realize a Palestinian state by 2005, holds that this expansion of the settlements must end immediately and the Americans have been putting great pressure on Sharon to dismantle outposts as a sign of good will.

Israeli TV screens have been filled with images of policemen and soldiers manhandling Jewish settlers as they destroy a handful of outposts, mostly uninhabited caravan sites. However, according to Etkes, the dismantling is mostly a charade. “An outpost is taken down by the army on Wednesday and it is back up on Thursday,” he claims.

Etkes recently took a party of 30 Peace Now activists on a tour of the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, built to break up the Palestinian areas of Bethlehem and Hebron in the southern West Bank. Their coach stopped at Neve Daniel, a settlement established by Israel in 1982 that lies across the valley from the Palestinian village of Al-Khader, to the southwest of Bethlehem. Several cranes there are constructing yet more luxury villas to add to those already inhabited by some 800 settlers.

About half a kilometer along the ridge is Neve Daniel North, an outpost set up a year ago as an agricultural institute. Then there were only two caravans and a water tower; now there are about ten caravans, four of them inhabited by families, guarded by a military base which is supplying the caravans with electricity. “This is how a new settlement is born,” claims Etkes. “As soon as soldiers are attached to the site it is given a legitimacy by the government, whether or not it is still officially illegal. It becomes part of Israel’s security needs. Within time it will become a new neighborhood of Neve Daniel.” Peace Now claims that the expansion of the outposts is a reaction by the settlers to the Oslo process, which was designed to hand land back to the Palestinians. “The settlement expansion began in the mid-1990s and it’s been like an ameba ever since, constantly growing.” The inhabitants of Neve Daniel now control swathes of land owned by Palestinians from surrounding villages like Al-Khader and Nahhalin.

After the army declared the surrounding area a closed military zone, Palestinian farmers were unable to reach their land. Under Ottoman laws, if the land is uncultivated for three years it reverts to state ownership — in this case, becoming Israeli. One farmer, 32-year-old Daoud Nassar from Bethlehem, has been struggling for a decade to keep hold of 100 acres of fields registered in the name of his grandfather in 1924. His lands are now encircled by the government-authorized settlements of Neve Daniel, Elazar, Allon Shevut and Rosh Zurim, as well as their illegal outgrowths — Derech Haavot, Givat Hahish and Beerot Yitzhak.

Despite having ownership papers from the Ottomans, British, Jordanian and Israeli authorities, he has been fighting a legal battle through the Israeli courts since 1991, when the army declared the area closed. Like his neighbors, he had his lands confiscated, in his case after the military courts ruled in January 2000 that he could not prove his ownership claim. He is currently appealing to the High Court, which has temporarily halted attempts by Neve Daniel to build access roads through his land.

Etkes says he responded to an official advert placed by the Gush Etzion council three weeks ago asking for applications from ‘pioneer families’. Without revealing his identity, he called the number on the leaflet and discovered that the advert was trying to recruit settler families to set up an outpost on land close to Daoud Nassar’s fields. “Once the families are recruited, a road will have to be built through Daoud’s land and an army base established to protect it. He will lose his land to the settlers.”

Similar land confiscations are taking place a short distance away, close to two settlements southeast of Bethlehem: Tekoa and Noqedim. Last summer, some 4,000 Palestinian villagers at Zatara discovered that a substantial bypass road had been approved through their lands to connect the two settlements with Har Homa, a recently completed ‘city settlement’ north of Bethlehem.

The $15 million project is needed for ‘land and security considerations’, according to the Defense Ministry. Officials say it will enable the residents to reach Jerusalem more safely by avoiding roads that run through Palestinian villages, although Etkes points out that the area has been free of violent incidents during the intifada.

Villagers will lose hundreds of acres of land to the project and more land that they cannot reach because it will be declared a military zone, Peace Now claims. If previous precedents are followed, Palestinians will also be banned from using their own roads in the area, many of which will cross the main highway.

Taha Donun, whose home abuts the site where bulldozers are levelling the land for the road, said he and his brothers had already had land confiscated by the army and his cousin’s house had been demolished.

According to Etkes: “The road is pure incitement. It has no purpose other than to steal land and instil more hatred in Palestinian hearts. When Israel is still investing so much in the settlements, it is difficult to believe it is really serious about the road map and a Palestinian state.”

Back to topBack to Top

printer symbolPrint this Page

letter symbolEmail this Page

The History of Peace Talks

Al Jazeera Video: Palestinians Document Settler Violence

BBC Video: West Bank Attack Filmed

Amnesty International Video:
Dina Goor, Yesh Din

Documentary: The Iron Wall

Related Articles

Israel plans Jerusalem settlement

No one knows full cost of Israel's settlement ambitions

Israeli Land Theft: How Much is Enough?

Heroism in the Holy Land

Crossroads of Slaughter

More Articles on Settlements

Camp David and After: An Exchange in The New York Review of Books

Book – The Truth About Camp David

Book – Perceptions of Palestine

Additional Resources

UN OCHA – The Humanitarian Impact on Palestinians of Israeli Settlements and Other Infrastructure in the West Bank | July 2007

Amnesty International – Removing unlawful Israeli settlements: Time to act

B’Tselem – Land Grab: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank

Documentary – Inside God’s Bunker

Quotes from U.S. Government Officials on Israeli Settlements

B’Tselem – Hebron, Area H-2: Settlements Cause Mass Departure of Palestinians

FMEP – Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories: A Guide

Palestine Monitor Fact Sheet – Settlements

Quotes from US Government Officials Regarding Settlements

Book – Zealots for Zion: Inside Israel’s West Bank Settlement Movement


Foundation for Middle East Peace

Israel’s Peace Now

PLO Negotiations Affairs Department

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Stay Informed

Sign up for our mailing list and receive an email whenever we post a new article on our news site, Israel-Palestine News.

If Americans Knew distributes and posts to our website copyrighted material, sometimes without the permission of the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law since it is being distributed without profit for purely educational purposes. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

This website is printer-friendly. Please Print this article and share it with your friends and family.