Report: West Bank settlements illegal —under Israeli law

A report released by the B’Tselem human rights group Dec. 22 states that the West Bank settlement of Ofra, northeast of Jerusalem, is in fact an “illegal” outpost even under Israeli law. Ofra, part of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, is a 168-acre community located between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Nablus, with some 3,000 residents. B’Tselem found that Ofra must be evicted under the stipulations of the Sasson Report, complied by Attorney Talia Sasson at then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s request.

Sasson concluded that more than 150 West Bank settlements lacked the proper authorization and recommended the majority of them be evacuated. Its criteria were that the Israeli government must issue a decision to establish a settlement; it must have a defined jurisdictional area and development plan; and must be built on State land or on land that was purchased by Israelis and registered under their name in the Land Registry.

The B’Tselem report said that Ofra, established in the mid-1970s, meets the first criterion only. It was officially recognized by the Israeli state in 1979, “but it was never assigned any official jurisdictional area, nor has any detailed outline plan been approved for it or any formal building permits issued for the area.” The report further states that the titles to some 58% of Ofra’s lands are actually held by Palestinians from the villages of Ein Yabrud and Silwad.

B’Tselem asserts that the very existence of Ofra is an infringement of the human rights of the local Palestinians, and that the government must order its immediate evacuation, and return the land to its rightful owners. (YNet, Dec. 22)

Sassoon’s inquiry recommended possible prosecution of public officials for helping to spread unauthorized settler outposts in the West Bank, finding “blatant violations of the law that threaten the rule of law in Israel.” (Reuters, March 10, 2005)

See our last post on the West Bank

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