JERUSALEM (CNS) — Israel’s appropriation of about 380 acres of Palestinian agricultural land in the Jordan Valley is another action that hinders the implementation of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a lawyer for a Catholic legal aid group said.
“Every time such a thing happens, it is a step further from the implementation of the original vision of having a two-state solution and leaves people in a state of despair and with a loss of hope of having any possibility of a settlement,” said Raffoul Rofa, executive director of the Society of St. Yves.
“The issue of land appropriation is nothing new. It has been going on for years,” said Rofa, who has contested similar confiscation cases for the past 18 years.
The land to be taken over is located north of the Almog settlement near Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to Israel Army Radio. It is entirely under Israeli control and is already being used as farmland by Jewish settlers in the area.
Israel uses a 19th-century Ottoman Empire-era law, which holds that if parcels lay fallow and neglected for more than 10 consecutive years, then the sultan, as ultimate ruler of the area, could take over the land and give it to someone else to use and make productive. The law’s aim was to support productivity while ensuring tax revenues for the sultan, Rofa said.
But Israel, instead of giving the land to other Palestinians from the same village as the lands’ owners or from nearby villages, gives the land to Jewish settlements to be annexed, he said.
“It is very clear that this creates “pockets” on the ground making it more and more difficult for the Palestinian Authority to expand into those areas,” he said.
Rofa said most of the people who would be affected by the Jordan Valley land appropriation — the largest since August 2014 when Israel took over almost 1,000 acres in the Bethlehem area where the bodies of three kidnapped youth were found — are members of the nomadic Bedouin tribes living in the area.
The Israeli civil administration has been intent on resettling Bedouins living in the eastern periphery of Jerusalem and in the Jordan Valley to established villages that would leave huge tracts of land open to confiscation, Rofa added.
“If there is no political will to stop these things from happening, legal action can mostly only delay them but not prevent them,” he said. “Sometimes we are successful here and there, but mostly if something like this happens, it is a foregone conclusion that eventually they will take it.”