The land has no owner and there are no Palestinian claims to it, but other countries are upset because they (wrongly) believe Israel is taking Palestinian land.
By: AP and World Israel News Staff
Israel’s Ministry of Defense said Wednesday that officials have approved the declaration of some 370 acres (150 hectares) of land near the city of Jericho in the Jordan Valley as state lands, in a move that drew sharp condemnation from the Obama Administration and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The area is under full Israeli control as prescribed by the Oslo accords. There are no Palestinian villages in the area and no Palestinian claims of ownership on the land have been made. The land has been tilled by Israeli farmers in past years.
Peace Now, an Israeli extreme-left group, said it is Israel’s largest land “expropriation” in the Judea and Samaria region since Israel declared nearly 1,000 acres (400 hectares) of land as state land in the summer of 2014 after the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers by a Hamas terror cell, in a move that drew international criticism.
“The government’s decision is another step on the way to destroy the possibility for a two state solution,” Peace Now said in a statement.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner condemned the move, lamenting the fact that he “sounded like a broken record” on this issue. “‘We strongly oppose any steps that could accelerate settlement expansion and we believe they’re fundamentally incompatible with a two-state solution and call into question frankly the Israeli government’s commitment to a two-state solution,” he said.
Ban expressed “deep concern” over the reports, saying that if the area is “annexed,” it will be the largest annexation in the past year and a half.
“Settlement activities are a violation of international law and run counter to the public pronouncements of the Government of Israel supporting a two-state solution to the conflict,” Ban said in a statement.
Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the IDF unit responsible for implementing government policy in Judea and Samaria and vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip, said Wednesday the land decision was made by senior Israeli leaders and is in the final technical stages of implementation.
The Israeli government has yet to make an official statement on the issue.