Rights group demands Israel cancel tenders opened in illegal West Bank settlements
According to Adalah, during 2016 and 2017 the Israel Land Authority (ILA) opened tenders offering “state lands” for available plots in at least seven West Bank settlements, including the Givat Zeev, Maale Adumim, Alfei Menashe, Ariel, Beitar Illit, Karnei Shomron, and Oranit settlements.
Adalah sent a letter to senior Israeli officials on Tuesday, demanding that the open tenders be canceled, as “the Israeli agency responsible for issuing these tenders has no legal authority in the 1967 Occupied Territories,” referring to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which were illegally occupied by Israel following the six-day war in 1967.
In the letter, attorney Suhad Bishara, director of Adalah's Land and Planning Rights Unit, wrote "the territories included in these tenders are being managed as if they are part of the State of Israel to which Israeli state law applies. This practice – for all intents and purposes – therefore annexes these territories to the State of Israel."
“Adalah emphasizes that this practice is a violation of international law, which determines that any long-term changes imposed upon occupied territories must be in the interests of the local protected civilian population. International law also forbids the occupying power from exploiting occupied territories for its general use,” the letter concluded.
An ILA spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
An estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Israeli settlers reside in 196 illegal Israeli settlements and outposts, scattered across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
Settlement watchdog Peace Now released a report on Sunday, revealing a 34 percent increase in illegal Israeli settlement construction over 2016, with Israeli settlers breaking ground on 1,814 new housing units, compared to 1,350 new construction starts in 2015.
Peace Now’s findings for 2016 coincided with a record number of Palestinian home demolitions by Israeli authorities in 2016, according to a December report from the the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has already pushed the advancement of some 6,000 new illegal settlement housing units on occupied Palestinian land since the beginning of the year, and passed the outpost Regularization law, which has paved the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of illegal Israeli settler outposts.
Human rights groups and international leaders have strongly condemned Israel’s settlement construction, claiming it is a strategic maneuver to prevent the establishment of a contiguous, independent Palestinian state as envisioned in the two-state solution by changing the facts on the ground.