07/22/2011, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Document shows Israel to annex Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea

An internal military document by IDF Civil Administration indicates that steps are being taken to increase state-ownership in the West Bank. The plan would make an independent Palestinian state with territorial continuity impossible.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An internal military document, made public by the daily Haaretz, shows that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Civil Administration is taking steps to increase state-ownership of West Bank lands. Such a policy would allow for new construction not only around settlements like Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, but also in strategic areas like the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea.

The political consequences of the plan outlined in the document would be significant. The inclusion of the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and areas around Ariel would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state with territorial contiguity.

The scope of land in question would thwart the possibility of Israel and Palestine exchanging areas in a peace settlement, according to the formula presented by US President Barack Obama on 19 May 2011, because on the western side of the Green Line there is not enough open land to compensate the Palestinians for such an extensive annexation, according to examinations carried out during previous Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Until now, it was not known that the IDF Civil Administration, which is a military agency, was charged with distinguishing between the blocs Israel is demanding to annex as part of a final-status agreement and the rest of the settlements.

The document by Lt Col Zvi Cohen details the work procedures of the administration's team, dubbed "Blue Line," for demarcating state lands in the West Bank. He writes that the team's major task is to examine the state's declarations of ownership on lands mainly in the 80s and 90s. However, the team, which has been working since 1999, is also examining the possibility of declaring lands with undefined ownership as state lands.

The document says the team's goal is to make sure the planning procedures and land allocations are advanced only on lands that are government property and not Palestinian-owned. Still, dozens of settlements and outposts have been built, with the authorities' knowledge and assistance, on private, Palestinian-owned lands. These include Ofra, Beit El and Eli and the outposts Amona, Givat Asaf and Migron, to name just a few.

The document says the Blue Line team is not required to examine and ascertain land ownership where the ownership has already been determined de facto by illegal construction.

Dror Etkes, a left-wing activist monitoring construction in the settlements, has found that the administration's team included at least 26 outposts in territories it defines as state lands. This means the state has started a process to legitimise these outposts.
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