The US State Department spokesman and United Nations Secretary-General both released statements on Tuesday condemning Israel’s recent appropriation of about 600 acres of land in Judea, accusing the Jewish state of illegal settlement activity which the State Department said will “undermine the prospects for a two-state solution.”
“We strongly oppose any steps that accelerate settlement expansion, which raises serious questions about Israel’s long-term intentions,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a news briefing.
The UN’s Ban Ki-moon issued a similar statement through spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who declared, “Settlements are illegal under international law and the secretary-general urges the government of Israel to halt and reverse such actions in the interest of a just and comprehensive peace and a just final status agreement.”
The criticism came after Israel declared 234 hectares, or 580 acres, of West Bank territory to be state land. The area is located south of Jericho and close to the Dead Sea.
It is the largest land “confiscation” since 2014, when Israel declared 4,000 dunams of land in the Bethlehem area to be government property.
All of the “confiscated” lands are located within the Biblical borders of Israel, which stretched east to west from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean. However, these are not boundaries respected by international law.
In a report by Peace Now, a leftist Israeli NGO, on the “land grab”, the organization said that Israel’s intention was to prevent Palestinian expansion and build up Jewish settlements in the area.
“Control over this area is meant to split the West Bank in half and prevent the possibility to establish a viable and contiguous Palestinian State,” read the report, which also stated that the declaration of appropriation had been made and signed during US Vice President Joe Biden’s Israel visit on March 10.
Issues of building in the so-called settlements – Jewish communities located in Judea, Samaria and the Golan – have loomed large in Israel’s relations with the US, which has repeatedly condemned such expansion and urged Israel to freeze construction in the settlements.
The position of the US, the UN and other international bodies is that the freezing of settlements is necessary to make peace in the region, which they believe can be reached through the implementation of a two-state solution.
Israel, however, does not see the settlement issue as the main obstacle to peace, pointing instead to the fact that though the PA has been offered many generous deals, it has rejected all of them.
Most recently, the PA refused a deal which would give it security control over much of the West Bank, incorporating all of Area A, which includes most large Palestinian cities and villages. The IDF will continue to operate in the area as usual.