The area to be seized encompasses more than 10sq km of land in the southern West Bank, especially in the Hebron region.


According to the confiscation orders, which were published on Wednesday, the Israeli army will expropriate the land extending from the village of al-Burj to southern Yatta.


This covers hundreds of acres of farmland, including numerous olive groves, and will further diminish the size of any prospective Palestinian state in the West Bank.

 

Israel has already annexed more than a 100sq km of West Bank land, ostensibly to build a gigantic separation wall which snakes through Palestinian towns and villages, reducing some of them to virtual detention camps.


Land grabs

 

Moreover, dozens of other Jewish settlements in the heart of the West Bank, such as Ma'ali Adomim near Jerusalem and Ariel, south of Nablus, continue to expand at the expense of Palestinian territory.


"They (the Israelis) act as if there is an unwritten understanding between the US and Israel whereby US officials make statements opposing settlement expansion while Israel keeps up the 'good work'"

Abd al-Hadi Hantash,
Palestinian analyst

Palestinian analysts say these land-grabs fly in the face of international efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

 

According to Abd al-Hadi Hantash, who has been monitoring Israeli settlement activities for the past 25 years, the purpose of the latest seizure is to "make any prospective Palestinian state as small as possible and as unviable as possible".

 

"Israel believes that President [George] Bush is not really serious about a viable Palestinian state, they think that he is just bamboozling the Arabs.

"This is how they interpret American reluctance to force Israel to halt the land confiscation and settlement expansion.
"

 

Separation barrier

 

He added: "They (the Israelis) act as if there is an unwritten understanding between the US and Israel whereby US officials make statements opposing settlement expansion while Israel keeps up the 'good work'."

 

Israel says the wall is necessary
to stop attacks on Israeli civilians

A spokesman for the Israeli government told Aljazeera.net: "The expropriation is necessary to build the separation fence to prevent terror attacks on Israeli citizens - this is not a permanent confiscation, it is only a temporary security measure."

 

However, the confiscation orders, handed over to landowners in the Hebron area, do not state that the confiscation is temporary.

 

"From the very first day of the occupation in 1967, successive Israeli governments always claimed that the recurrent confiscations were temporary security measures. Then we ended up having more than 230 settlements, swallowing up over 55% of the West Bank," Hantash said.