Peace Now protests West Bank Dead Sea property registration

Peace Now on Monday protested a decision to register as state land 138,600 dunams of shoreline property along a section of the Dead Sea in the West Bank that until recently was under water. The Dead Sea's receding shoreline has greatly expanded the available area, which has sinkholes and is not suitable for building. Still, the decision by the Commissioner of Government Property, a branch of the Civil Administration, to register it as state land amounts to land expropriation, something the State of Israel said it would not do, said Hagit Ofran of Peace Now. In a report that Peace Now issued on the seashore property registration, it also claimed that the move would prevent Palestinian ownership claims or use of the land, even though a military closure of the stretch of shoreline has already placed it off limits to Palestinians. The Civil Administration said Monday that the state could better protect the property, which spans the area from Almog to beyond Mitzpe Shalem, and prevent illegal construction in the area if the land were registered to the state. It added that there was a 45-day period, which started on June 28, in which Palestinians could object to the registration and make ownership claims. To date, the civil administration said, no such claims have been registered. Mordechai Dahman, who heads the Megillot Dead Sea Regional Council, said he, too, opposed the move. State laws that would protect the new shoreline area already exist, he said. Dahman is of the opinion that the move is a fiscal one, as, he explained, registering the land would allow the state to levy additional taxes on the property that the council would have to pay.