Almost 40 per cent of land used by Israel for its settlements in the occupied West Bank is owned by Palestinians, the Israeli or- ganisation Peace Now said yesterday on the basis of leaked official maps and other data.
Contrary to official claims that the land is state-owned and that private property is only seized temporarily for security reasons, the leak shows that privately owned Palestinian land has been repeatedly used to build and expand settlements.
The potential embarrassment to Israel is all the greater because it suggests that the use of private Palestinian land is especially prevalent in Jewish settlements which successive Israeli governments have made clear they are determined to keep.
For example, Peace Now say the leaked data for the largest settlement built on territory occupied in the 1967 Six Day War, Ma'ale Adumim, to the east of Jerusalem, indicates the amount of privately owned Palestinian land accounts for 86.4 per cent. The settlement is one of the "major population centres" which President George Bush conceded in 2004 would remain Israeli in any "final status" settlement.
Peace Now says the disclosure demonstrates that "in addition to ignoring international laws and agreements, Israel has violated its own norms and laws in the West Bank through the confiscation of private Palestinian property and the building of settlements upon them."
Peace Now says that digital maps showing that 15,000 acres of privately owned Palestinian lands have been used in the settlements were leaked from within the Israeli military's Civil Administration, which runs the West Bank.
Claiming that "the property rights of many Palestinians have been systematically violated," the report says the data was used by Talia Sasson, the lawyer charged by the then prime minister Ariel Sharon to report on illegal settlements last year.
Ms Sasson said in her report that the use of private Palestinian property for outpost construction could be a "felony", and contravene a "basic right" of possession defined by …