Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Virtually No Reaction in Israel to a Report About the West Bank

April 4, 1985
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The report by the West Bank Data Base Project showing that the Israeli government now controls 52 percent of the land on the West Bank, including every area with growth potential, has elicited virtually no reaction in Israel since its release here Sunday although it was featured on the front pages of major American dailies and drew prompt comment from the U.S. State Department which has yet to see the report.

The figures cited in the report, titled “Land Alienation on the West Bank: A Legal and Spatial Analysis” were disputed by no one here. But they hardly came as a surprise. Meron Benvenisti, a former Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem who heads the Data Base Project, presented similar data in the project’s 1984 report which correctly predicted the conclusions of the new study.

Jewish settlers in the territory did not react, nor did government circles. Both take the line that the less said of Israel’s control over the territories, the better.

A prominent Arab lawyer, Rajai Shehade, said in a newspaper interview published yesterday that he did not challenge Benvenisti’s data but did take issue with his insistence that Israel’s hegemony over the West Bank has reached the point where it is “irreversible”.


Benvenisti, long a sharp critic of Jewish settlement activities in the occupied territories, has maintained for some time that the socio-economic and demographic situation and other “facts” created by Israel in its 18 years of occupation have already rendered impossible any sovereignty other than Israel’s over the land.

Shehade — and the State Department — do not agree with that premise. Shehade also contested Benvenisti’s assertion that the government’s acquisition of West Bank land was accomplished through legal means, if not always in the best spirit of the law. According to the Arab lawyer, it is not enough to evaluate the land acquisition measures in terms of Israeli law only, but rather by the terms of international law and its application to territories under military occupation.

According to the latest Data Base Project report, 52 percent of the West Bank land, some 5.3 million dunams, have come under absolute government control through direct seizure or administrative restrictions.

The land has been seized in a number of ways, the report said: By declaring land previously held by the Jordanian monarchy to be State land; by expropriating Arab land, especially that of absentee owners; by seizing land for military purposes or for communal services, such as nature preserves; and by purchasing it from Arabs willing to sell.


Almost half the area seized has been taken over for military purposes, the report said. Only seven percent of the total Israel-controlled region has been designated for housing. But this alone is sufficient to house a population of 800,000-1,000,000.

Jewish settlers in the territory presently number about 45,000. A soon to be approved master plan for road construction in the West Bank will expropriate another 100,000 dunams, Benvenisti said. The Jewish population will soar to 100,000 before the turn of the century, he predicted.

The State Department said yesterday that it does not “share the view that activities on the ground rule out the possibility of a negotiated settlement”. But it credited the Benvenisti report with pointing “to the urgency of achieving a negotiated resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict based on Israel’s return of territory in exchange for a just and durable peace.”

Recommended from JTA