February 2005

While the aggressive language of many among Gaza’s 7000 Jewish settlers is making Israeli officials nervous, the government is far more fearful of the response of the wider settler population of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They number at least 400,000, a significant proportion of them hardline religious Jews who have little time for realpolitik or compromise. They believe they are doing God’s work in settling land that was promised the Jews in the Bible. “Enough with the embraces and love,” Oz Kadmon from Kafr Darom said. “[Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon is a belligerent man and he must be addressed in the language he understands.”

The latest legal maneuvers by the Israeli government to confiscate Palestinian land in East Jerusalem have rightly caused outrage, even among senior Israeli officials.
Last summer, it emerged that the government secretly resurrected a 55-year-old piece of legislation drafted in the immediate aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Using the 1950 Absentee Property Law, Israeli officials have the right to seize the holdings of any Palestinian landowner they define as “absent.” The renewed application of the law came to light only after an Israeli lawyer pressed the army for a promised entry permit into Israel for his client, Johnny Atik, a Bethlehem farmer who needed to reach his fields.