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Middle East

Israel's record-breaking land seizures in the West Bank: The largest in three decades

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  • Israel has seized more land in the West Bank this year than in any year since the 1993 Oslo Accords.
  • The land seizures have intensified tensions and complicated the prospects for a two-state solution.
  • The international community, including the U.N., has condemned the actions, calling for a negotiated peace settlement.

In a move that has sent shockwaves through the international community, Israel has seized more land in the West Bank this year than in any year since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993. This unprecedented land grab has intensified the already volatile situation in the region, further complicating the prospects for a two-state solution and escalating tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

According to Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement watchdog group, nearly half of all West Bank land seized by Israel since the Oslo Accords was taken this year alone. The group reported that 12.7 square kilometers of land in the Jordan Valley were formally designated as "state property" in June, allowing the land to be leased to Israelis and preventing Palestinians from privately owning it. This declaration marks the largest single appropriation of land since the peace process began over three decades ago.

The Political Landscape

The current Israeli government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is considered the most religious and nationalist in the country's history. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a prominent settler and a key figure in the government, has been instrumental in accelerating the land expansion. Smotrich has taken new powers to develop settlements and aims to strengthen Israel's control over the land to prevent the formation of a Palestinian state. "We came to settle the land, to build it, and to prevent its division and the establishment of a Palestinian state, God forbid," Smotrich said during a conference for his ultranationalist Religious Zionism Party.

Impact on Palestinian Communities

The newly seized land is located in areas where settler violence has been displacing Palestinian communities even before the recent escalation in the Gaza war. The violence has increased since Hamas' attack on October 7, which ignited the current conflict. Palestinians assert that the violence is aimed at expanding Israeli control over large areas, diminishing the likelihood of achieving a Palestinian state.

The Israeli government's actions have drawn widespread condemnation from the international community. U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric called the land seizure "a step in the wrong direction," emphasizing the need for a negotiated two-state solution. Despite these calls for peace, the Israeli government continues to expand settlements, further entrenching its control over the West Bank.

Historical Context

Israel gained control over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Mideast war. Since then, Israel has built settlements throughout the West Bank, where more than 490,000 Israelis live. These settlements are considered illegal under international law. About 3 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, some in areas administered by the Palestinian Authority, but much of the territory remains off-limits to the authority despite the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live there.

The Road Ahead

The rapid growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank underscores the influence of the settler community in the Israeli government. The expansion of settlements is seen as a major obstacle to any lasting peace agreement with the Palestinians. "Today, it is clear to everyone that this conflict cannot be resolved without a political settlement that establishes a Palestinian state alongside Israel," Peace Now said in a statement. "Still, the Israeli government chooses to actually make it difficult and distance us from the possibility of peace and stopping the bloodshed".

Israel's record-breaking land seizures in the West Bank this year have further complicated the already fraught Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the international community continues to call for a two-state solution, the actions of the Israeli government suggest a different trajectory. The future of the region remains uncertain, with both sides entrenched in a cycle of violence and territorial disputes that show no signs of abating.

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