Israel uses Ottoman law to legalize settler outpost
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- After Israeli authorities issued confiscation orders to Qaryut villagers for 189 dunams of land on July 1, an Israeli media report said Friday that the authorities were using Ottoman-era law to take land for a settlement outpost. One week ago, Israeli forcesdelivered a notification to the Nablus district village council signed by the Israeli Civil Administration declaring the village lands Israeli "state" property. A report in Israeli daily Haaretz said Friday that authorities used an 1858 land law, still applicable in the West Bank, which allows uncultivated land to be declared in state ownership. Qaryut, southeast of Nablus, is surrounded by illegal settlements Eli and Shilo, with the outpost Givat Hayovel jutting into village territory. The expropriation of land will retroactively legalize the outpost Ghassan Doughlas, the Palestinian Authority official for monitoring settlement activity in the northern West Bank, told Ma'an. Villagers have 45 days to appeal to the military appeals committee, Haaretz reported, noting that Qaryut was the first land expropriation for settlement expansion in three years, in violation of commitments to the US. Eli's mayor, Kobi Eliraz, told the daily he is glad the state is making progress toward formalizing the status of the Hayovel neighborhood. Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were going to great lengths to legalize isolated outposts deep in the territories, even if this involves land expropriations, Haaretz reported. Givat Hayovel was established in 1998 with the help of nearly $75,000 from the Israeli Ministry of Construction and Housing. It has 17 permanent homes and 30 caravans. The Israeli government has been seeking to differentiate between outposts built on private Palestinian land and others built on public land, as continuous pledges -- as committed under the 2003 international "road-map" peace plan -- to dismantle outposts have not been honored. A 2005 official Israeli report on settlement outposts which said Hayovel was built on private Palestinian land, was seemingly disregarded in last week's declaration of Qaryut lands as state property. Palestinians say all Israeli settlement in the West Bank is in violation of international law and expanding settlement construction has been a major obstacle to the resumption of peace talks.