Report: Settlements spreading out

But Peace Now says most of area in settlements' own jurisdictions still empty.

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July 6, 2007 16:00
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Nine of every 10 Jewish settlements sprawl beyond their official boundaries in an attempt to grab more land in the West Bank, a new report said Friday. Settlements encroach on unallocated land even though most of the area in their own jurisdictions remains empty, according to the report from Peace Now, which tracks Israeli construction in the West Bank. According to the report, 91 percent of the land allocated to settlements by the government is still empty, indicating that the use of land outside settlement boundaries does not "derive from a land shortage in the settlements" but from "a desire to expropriate more land." The government does little to enforce building laws in the settlements, the report said. The report also said 10 percent of the land officially allocated to the settlements is privately owned Palestinian land that Israel seized. Yishai Hollander, a spokesman for the the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Yesha), accused Peace Now of continuing a "campaign of lies," saying the settlement jurisdictions do not include any land that belongs to Palestinians. Peace Now's allegations, Hollander said, "are totally divorced from reality." There are 122 official Israeli settlements in the West Bank, along with around 100 unauthorized settlement outposts. Shlomo Dror, the spokesman for the coordinator of government activities in the West Bank, did not deny that instances of settlement encroachment existed but said many of the failings noted in the Peace Now report have been corrected since the mid-1990s. "Today we have better enforcement, the ownership of land is checked and we pursue legal action when necessary," Dror said.


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