Israel's decision to annex more Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank has sparked international condemnation from human rights organizations, governments and activists.
The Israeli government announced that it will annex 990 acres of Palestinian Territory near the Jewish settlement of Gva'ot, west of Bethlehem. It has declared them ‘State Land’, leaving way for more settlements considered illegal under international law.
On numerous occasions, the United Nations declared that Israel's construction of settlements constitutes a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention (relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War). As of 2012, there were 344,391 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem.
As far as we know, this declaration is unprecedented in its scope since the 1980's and can dramatically change the reality in the Gush Etzion and the Bethlehem area
Peace Now offered some historical perspective to the settlement of Gva'ot:
Gva'ot was established in 1984 as a Military Base between the Palestinian villages of Al Jab'a and Nahhalin. During the 90’s, the soldiers were replaced by Yeshiva students that occupied the 30 caravans on site, and in 1998 the site was included within the official Municipal Borders of the settlement of Alon Shvut, which is located 3 km away. Recently, some 10 families moved in Gvaot and established an education institution on site.
Usually when a crime occurs, you prosecute criminal. Israel authorities use it as excuse to illegally annex more land http://t.co/Mwe1RTJ8Nm
— Nadim Houry (@nadimhoury) September 4, 2014
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) September 4, 2014
Human Rights Watch said that the new settlements plan, if implemented, would amount to a war crime:
Israel should immediately reverse its illegal appropriation of a large swath of land in the occupied West Bank south of Jerusalem, Human Rights Watch said today. The appropriation, announced on September 1, 2014, paves the way for substantial settlement construction near the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Transferring civilian settlers into occupied territory would amount to a war crime.
This condemnation was joined by dozens of human rights NGOs, including Amnesty International, Jewish Voice for Peace as well as numerous governmental bodies and governments including the United Nations, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO, or Palestinian Authority), the USA, the UK, Egypt, France, Spain, Turkey, Ireland and the European Union. A good summary of many governments’ responses can be found in this Huffington Post coverage.
Not surprisingly, Palestinians, many Israelis as well as international observers are seeing this as yet another proof that Israel isn't interested in a two-state solution.
Belal Damour, a Gaza-based doctor, tweeted to his more than 82,000 followers:
Israel confiscates 988 acres of West Bank land for “possible settlement use”, the largest move of the kind since 1980s. So much for peace!
— Belal Dabour – Gaza (@Belalmd12) September 1, 2014
In his op-ed for Israel's Haaretz, Israeli journalist Chemi Shalev wrote that:
It is becoming increasingly hard to refute the argument that over the decades, the peace process has served as a cover for de-facto annexation and denial of Palestinian rights.
The Guardian's Ben White says that the blame also lies on the futility of symbolic condemnations rather than real action:
— Ben White (@benabyad) September 2, 2014
West Bank land expropriation shows Israel's disregard for int'l norms, & is directly related to years of ‘condemnation’ w/out consequences.
— Ben White (@benabyad) September 3, 2014
— Noura Erakat (@4noura) September 2, 2014
Given that not two weeks have passed since the devastating war in Gaza left over 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 70 Israelis dead, mostly soldiers, the timing of the Israeli move in the West Bank is being treated with suspicion:
Biggest Israeli land appropriation in West Bank for 30 yrs. This has been Bibi's plan all along. http://t.co/zqRrYfsKl6
— Dan Murphy (@bungdan) September 1, 2014
If you're still new to the settlements topic, this AJ + labs video summarizes it in simple terms: