By Jonathan Cook
"JERUSALEM // Peace Now’s revelation this week that Israel plans to build more than 70,000 homes in the West Bank is the latest in a string of troubling disclosures about settlement expansion. The plans were released with a transparent goal in mind: embarrassing the Israeli leadership as Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, arrived on her first visit to the region since her appointment.
According to the report, about 73,000 homes – most still on the drawing board but 9,000 of them already built – would double the current population of nearly 300,000 settlers in the West Bank (an additional 220,000 are in East Jerusalem).....
Last week another human rights group, B’Tselem, revealed that Israel’s military government in the West Bank, known misleadingly as the civil administration, was preparing the infrastructure, including water and sewage lines, to cope with thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank.
At the same time, reports surfaced that Israel had seized some 330 acres near Bethlehem, declaring it state land, to build a new settlement eventually expected to house 10,000 settlers.
Dror Etkes, who monitors settlement expansion for the human rights group Yesh Din, noted that Israel had arbitrarily declared some 30 per cent of the West Bank “state land”, forbidding all Palestinian development on it. But the land theft does not end there.
Details of an internal defence ministry database of the settlements were leaked in January showing that officials had been allowing settlers to build on vast areas of land not confiscated by the state but ostensibly still in private Palestinian hands........."