Israel uses covert tactics to expand West Bank settlements
Since early May, residents of Beita village in the northern West Bank have been protesting every Friday near the peak of Jabal Sbeih, one of the highest mountains in the region.
The protests are in response to the activities of Jewish settlers who arrived at the top of the mountain with caravans, the first step in building a settlement.
The village, located southeast of Nablus, has lost 10 people and more than 5,000 Palestinians have been injured by live and rubber ammunition in addition to tear gas since the protests began.
According to Mousa Hamayil, a grassroots activist, after a month the settlers left the caravans at the top of the mountain – a dangerous sign for the Palestinians, as it leaves open the possibility of the settlers returning, especially as they attempt to legalize the outpost.
Residents of Beita collected documents through an Israeli military association demonstrating their ownership of the land and submitted them to the Supreme Court to challenge any attempts by settlers to legalize their presence on Jabal Sbeih.
“Guarding the caravans (on the mountain) convinced us that their departure is temporary and they are waiting for the time to take over the mountain,” Hamayil told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Israeli settler activity has been given the green light by the right-wing Israeli government, which is working to strengthen the settlement movement on West Bank lands under the protection of the Israeli army.
“For us, whatever they try to do, we will continue our fight on the ground and in the courts until we get back to the mountain. Last Friday during the demonstration, thousands of our people were there. The clashes were most violent in four months,” he added.
In 2017, the Knesset passed a controversial settlement law, which sparked a constitutional debate in Israeli political circles.
The law affected more than 4,000 settler homes in about 97 outposts built without official government permission in the West Bank.
These houses were built on private Palestinian land, and the law suggested giving them alternative land or financial compensation.
International law considers settlements in the West Bank illegal, but right-wing parties are giving endless support to settlers who plan to live on Palestinian land there.
Those who oppose the law have alleged that many Israeli politicians appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court until it overturned the decision in 2020.
Although the decision has been revoked, the Israeli authorities still fully support the settlers and the settlements are expanding in the occupied West Bank.
According to Khalil Tafakji, a Palestinian cartographic expert, around 126 outposts are in the West Bank and some of them are located within the structural patterns of large settlements, while others are outside like caravans or settlements. pastorals. He said these settlements are protected by the army but are not officially approved by the government.
“The legalization of the settlements will eventually be done by providing them with electricity, supporting the construction process and developing their activity. They consider these settlements to be a national priority, especially after their official approval by the government,” said Tafakji told AA.
Tafakji said the government endorses these outposts years after they were founded, noting that “this endorsement has many signs, mainly seen in giving them security protection, electricity and other services.”
“The law in Israel is built to support the settlements. There are sometimes circumventions of Supreme Court decisions. In some cases, the court issues a decision to dismantle the settlement. It was dismantled by settlers from a place (but) built elsewhere. They can also change the name of the settlement. They are breaking the law to maintain their settlement activity,” he said.
“The Israeli political elite fundamentally believes in two things: settlements in the West Bank and the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” Tafakji added.
Israeli and Palestinian estimates indicate that there are around 650,000 settlers living in 164 settlements and 116 outposts in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.