Israelis using underhanded ways to expand settlement activity in West Bank
By Salam AbuSharar
NABLUS, Palestine (AA): Since early last May, the people of the village of Beita southeast of Nablus have been protesting every Friday near the top of Jabal Sbeih, one of the highest mountains in the area.
The protests were in response to the activity of Jewish settlers at the top of the mountain, where they came with caravans as an initial step to building a settlement.
The village has lost 10 people and more than 5,000 Palestinians have been injured by live and rubber bullets in addition to tear gas since the beginning of the protests.
According to Mousa Hamayil, a grassroots activist, after a month, the settlers left the caravans at the top of the mountain — a dangerous sign for Palestinians, as it leaves open the possibility that the settlers will return, particularly since they are trying to legalize their outpost.
The people of Beita gathered documents through an Israeli military association demonstrating their ownership of the land and submitted them to the Supreme Court to challenge any attempt by settlers to legalize their presence on Jabal Sbeih.
“Keeping the caravans (on the mountain) has convinced us that their departure is temporary and that they are waiting for the moment to take control of the mountain,” Hamayil told Anadolu Agency.
The Israeli settler activity has received a green light from their right-wing government that works to enhance the settlement movement in West Bank lands under the protection of the Israeli army.
“For us, whatever they try to do, we will continue our struggle on the land and in the courts until regaining the mountain. Last Friday during the protest, thousands of our people were there. The clashes were the most violent in four months,” he added.
In 2017, the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, passed the Settlement Law, which triggered a constitutional debate in Israeli political circles.
The law was dealing with more than 4,000 settler homes in roughly 97 outposts that were built without official authorization from the government in the West Bank to legalize them retroactively.
These homes were built on privately-owned Palestinian lands, and the law suggested giving them alternative land or financial compensation.
International law considers the settlements in the West Bank illegal, but right-wing parties give endless support to settlers to settle on Palestinian lands there.
Those who are opposed to the law, alleged that many Israeli politicians appealed the decision at the Supreme Court until it cancelled the decision in 2020.
Although the decision was revoked, the Israeli authorities still give full support to the settlers and the settlements are expending in the occupied West Bank.
According to Khalil Tafakji, a Palestinian map expert, around 126 outposts are in the West Bank and part of them locate within the structural schemes of big settlements, while others are outside the schemes as caravans or pastoral settlements.
He said these settlements are protected by the army but are not officially approved by the government.
“The legalization of the settlements will happen eventually by providing them with electricity, supporting the building process and expanding their activity. They consider that these settlements have a national priority, especially after their approval by the government officially,” Tafakji told Anadolu Agency.
Tafakji said the government will give the approval for these outposts even after years of their foundation, “this approval has many signs, largely seen in giving them security protection, electricity and other services.
“The law in Israel is constructed to support the settlements. There is sometimes circumvention of Supreme Court decisions. In some cases, the court issues a decision to dismantle the settlement. It was dismantled by settlers from one place (but) built elsewhere. They may change the name of the settlement too. They defraud the law to maintain their settlement activity,” he said.
“The political elite in Israeli basically believes in two things: settlements in the West Bank and that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” Tafakji added.
Israeli and Palestinian estimates indicate there are about 650,000 settlers living in 164 settlements and 116 outposts in the West Bank, including in occupied Jerusalem.
[Photo: Palestinians stage a protest against building of Jewish settlements in Beita village of Nablus, West Bank, on February 4, 2022. Photographer: Issam Rimawi/AA]
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