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Israeli Concept of 'State Land' Needs Another Look

The belief that some Israeli settlements have been built on "state land" is based on a misinterpretation of past land-ownership practices, writes Lorenzo Kamel.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) stands with Transport Minister Yisrael Katz (2nd R) and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) during an inauguration ceremony of a new highway connecting Pisgat Zeev, an urban settlement in an area Israel annexed to Jerusalem after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war, with route 443, one of two main routes linking Israel's coastal plain with the uplands of Jerusalem, May 5, 2013. One of the highway's interchanges is named after Netanyahu's father, Benzion Netanya

Last March, the Israeli Civil Administration made public that, over the last 33 years, 0.77% of the “land owned by the state” in the West Bank has been assigned to Palestinian residents as compared to the 39% allocated to settlers. This unequal treatment has attracted fierce criticism.

Nonetheless, such criticisms have often resorted to the same terminology and arguments used by those who uphold the legitimacy of the settlements, effectively giving credence to the idea that the colonies authorized by the Israeli authorities were built, to paraphrase David M. Philips in Commentary, on “state-owned” or “public” land, thus on “un-registered” lands, or areas ascribable to “absentee property owners.”

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