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From the field

28 Dec. 05: Israel is using the separation barrier to seize control of private Palestinian land

B'Tselem and Bimkom recently uncovered evidence of plans to expand settlements in the Modi'in Illit bloc on privately-owned Palestinian land situated on the "Israeli" side of the separation barrier. This land, comprising hundreds of dunams of farmland, currently lies outside the jurisdictional area of the settlements in the bloc, and outside their official outline plans, and in the master plan for the Modi'in Illit area are designated for expansion of the settlements.

The master plan, which was prepared in 1998, has no statutory status and cannot, therefore, be deposited for the filing of objections. However, it sets guidelines for planning policy, and the outline plans are being drafted in accordance with its details. Some 600 dunams situated near the site of Outline Plan 210/8/1 (Matityahu East), which are owned by a few families from nearby Bil'in, on which hundreds of old olive trees stand, are designated in the master plan for the establishment of 1,200 housing units.

In early November 2005, a new road, running from Matityahu East to the expansion site, was built. In the process, more than one hundred olive trees were uprooted and stolen. On 13 November 2005, following the uprooting and the theft, the Bil'in Village Council filed a complaint with the SHAI Police District. The building of the road provides further proof of the state's intention to seize possession of the land near Matityahu East, which is under construction.

Map based on master plan
In red: the separation barrier. In blue: the boundary of the Modi'in Illit bloc's jurisdictional area. In yellow: the areas included in the master plan that lie outside the jurisdictional area.

Similarly, according to the master plan, cultivated land owned by residents of the Palestinian villages Deir Qadis and N'alin, amounting to some one thousand dunams and situated near Outline Plan 210/6/3 (Matityahu North 3), lies within the area of that outline plan.

In light of the objectives that are apparent in the master plan, there is grave concern that the hidden objective of the barrier is to cause the Palestinian residents to cease working the land that is intended for expansion of the settlements, and thereby enable Israel to declare them state land.

Beginning in the early 1970s, Israel took control of hundreds of thousands of dunams throughout the West Bank by declaring them state land. According to the applicable legislation, such a declaration is legal, inter alia, if it is proven that the land was not worked for at least three consecutive years.