SETTLEMENTS….Peace Now, an Israeli advocacy group, has released a study saying that 39% of the land used by Israeli settlements in the West Bank is actually private Palestinian property. The report, which is based on data from Israel’s Civil Administration, is highly detailed and includes satellite maps (here) showing the provenance of the land in dozens of settlements. On the right, for example, is a satellite map of Ariel, with private Palestinian land shaded in red and “survey land” shaded in yellow. According to the report, 35% of Ariel is private Palestinian property.

Which just goes to show how much I know. I never realized there was even a veneer of legality to the Israeli settlements, but it turns out that Israel has long claimed that the settlements are sited on land that was either purchased legally or was of uncertain ownership. The Peace Now report, however, seems to show pretty conclusively that that’s not the case. It says:

The ?privately owned land? to which this report refers is:

  1. Land that was registered and recognized as private property before 1968, at a time when the process of land registration was still open and available to Palestinians, or

  2. Cultivated land which is recognized by Israel as private land according to the Ottoman law.

An Israeli government spokesperson said they would comment on the report after they’ve had a chance to read it. But she added, “even if it turns out only 5 percent is private land, that is something we must take note of.” Stay tuned.

UPDATE: For a closer look at how this process works on the ground, check out Bernard Avishai’s Monday op-ed in the LA Times.

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