Israel carried out a de facto annexation of Palestinian land northeast of the Jordan Valley and given it to Kibbutz Merav. Merav, part of the Religious Kibbutz Movement, is about seven kilometers northwest of the parcel.
The route of the separation barrier in the area was changed so that the plot in question, about 1,500 dunams (375 acres), would be on the Israeli side.
Israel has previously built roads on and given Palestinian land in the West Bank to Jewish settlements, but this is thought to be the first instance of Palestinian-owned land being transferred to a community on sovereign Israeli territory.
A spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Guy Inbar, confirmed that the property is in the West Bank and said, “Kibbutz Merav has been farming this land for decades.”
The issue of the land’s legal status and its transfer to Merav is clouded in mystery, and official statements have been contradictory. All efforts to locate d
The kibbutz is in the Emek Mayanot Regional Council, whose jurisdiction is entirely within the Green Line. In a statement, council officials said the land is beyond its jurisdiction and that the Israel Lands Administration controls land allocations to the council’s member communities.
Ofer Amar, a spokesman for the World Zionist Organization’s Jewish settlement division said the tract is classified as farmland within the Emek Mayanot Regional Council. He said the settlement division had no authority over the parcel.
Kibbutz Merav’s secretary general, David Yisrael, confirmed the kibbutz has been farming the land for years, growing field crops including corn as well as citrus fruit. He said he had a lease with the ILA for it, but refused to show it to Haaretz.
An official in the Civil Administration said Yisrael refused to show the contract to his agency, too.
ILA spokeswoman Ortal Tzabar said the ILA had no knowledge of the matter, as it does not deal with land outside sovereign Israeli territory.
“There is a straight line from plundering these 1,500 dunams to Amona, Migron and Givat Asaf, outposts that were built years later,” said Dror Etkes, director of Peace Now’s Settlements Watch Project, who detected the annexed land in aerial photographs.
If the appropriation of the Palestinian farmers’ lands in the Jordan Valley had happened now, rather than in the 1970s, Israeli civil rights groups would have prevented it, Etkes said.
“This is an example of why it so important for MK Ofir Akunis and his wacky right-wing colleagues to conceal and silence leftist organizations and turn the High Court of Justice and the media into the government’s puppets,” Etkes said.
Ashraf Madrasa, from the nearby village of Bardallah, showed Haaretz an ownership deed from 1961 for a 36-dunam tract of the land. He said the Israel Defense Forces seized the land, declared it a “military area,” drove out the owners and ordered never to return.
For more, go to Haaretz.com