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Project sells West Bank land to Palestinians
With the aim of "putting Palestinian land in Palestinian hands", the TABO project seeks to promote broader ownership of the West Bank by making land more affordable and encouraging formal land registration.
May 12, 2011 10:13 by Eva Fernandes
MAPS, MEASURES AND PATIENCE
Many of the Jewish settlements built in the West Bank have been constructed on what Israel has declared “state land”.
To do that, Israel has used a 19th century law that entitled the Ottoman authorities to take control of land that was not being used and whose ownership was not officially registered, said Peace Now, an Israeli activist group.
Since Israel began invoking the law in the 1980s, around 16 percent of the West Bank has been declared state land, said Hagit Ofran, who monitors and analyses settlement construction for Peace Now.
“What Israel did was to survey the whole West Bank to find the land that is not cultivated and not registered with anybody. The fact that it is not registered does not mean there is no ownership,” she said.
“This trick would not have been valid if it wasn’t for the lack of registration,” she added. The process of land registration in the West Bank came to a halt in 1967 when Israel captured the territory from Jordan. Ofran said Israel’s justification was that some Palestinian landowners had fled in the conflict and therefore to continue registration would be unfair on the absentees.
In 2002, the Palestinian Authority, which governs around 40 percent of the West Bank, including the main Palestinian towns, established its own land authority to resume the process.
But it has made little headway in a costly and time-consuming procedure involving maps, measures and patience.
Nadim Barahmeh, head of the land authority, believes it is no coincidence that Jewish settlement is thinnest in the northern West Bank where land registration is most widespread.
The land authority has moved from a series of pilot projects funded by international donors to start work registering land in Bethlehem and Salfit, two areas further south, and will start work in a third area in 2012.
“The areas where there is final settlement of land ownership definitely helped put a limit to the erection of settlements,” he said.
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