Israel Seizes West Bank Land for Future Settlements

Watchdog groups said the move marked Israel’s largest land-grab in more than three decades

The Israeli government has confiscated a swath of territory in the occupied West Bank to make way for a new settlement block, designating nearly 2,000 acres as “state land.” The decision comes weeks after Tel Aviv greenlit the construction of thousands of additional settlement units beyond the green line.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced the “important and strategic” move on Friday, saying that some 1,980 acres of land in the northern Jordan Valley had been approved for future development.

“While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right to Judea and Samaria and the country in general, we promote the settlement movement with hard work and in a strategic manner across the country,” he said, using a biblical term for the West Bank favored by Israeli settlers.

The designation will allow for the construction of more than 100 settlement units in the Jordan Valley, as well as a commercial and industrial zone, according to Israeli broadcaster Kan.

Under Israeli law, labeling territory “state land” creates a pretext for the further expansion of settlement communities in the West Bank – long considered a “flagrant violation” of international law by the United Nations and other rights groups.

According to Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now, the land-grab marks Israel’s largest seizure in the West Bank since the signing of the ill-fated Oslo Accords in 1993.

“The declaration of state land is one of the main methods by which the State of Israel seeks to assert control over land in the occupied territories,” the group said in a statement. “Land declared as state land is no longer considered privately owned by Palestinians in the eyes of Israel, and they are prevented from using it. Additionally, the state leases state land exclusively to Israelis.”

This year has already reached a “peak in the extent of declarations of state land,” Peace Now added, with Tel Aviv confiscating some 2,629 acres in the first quarter of 2024 alone.

The decision also comes weeks after Israeli officials authorized the construction of more than 3,400 new settlement units elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, including 2,402 homes in the Ma’ale Adumim community, 694 in Efrat and another 330 in Keidar. That announcement was condemned by humanitarian orgs, with UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk saying the project would “fly in the face of international law.”

Tel Aviv has occupied the West Bank since the Six Day War of 1967, with more than 450,000 settlers currently living in the territory in around 150 separate communities. Smaller settler “outposts” have also sprung up across the West Bank, including at least 15 new encampments since last October, according to Al Jazeera.

Will Porter is assistant news editor at the Libertarian Institute and a regular contributor at Find more of his work at Consortium News and ZeroHedge.