Israel 'to declare Dead Sea shore state land'

The Israeli government has decided to register as state property West Bank land that has emerged as a result of Dead Sea shrinkage, an anti-settlement group said on Tuesday.

“Israeli authorities have announced that they intend to declare as state land some 138 600 dunums [34 650 acres] that has appeared along the Dead Sea in the occupied West Bank due to the drop in the water level,” Hagit Ofran of the Peace Now group told Agence France-Presse.

The government published its decision in the Arabic-language press on June 28 and the public has 45 days from that date to file any objections. The land is located along the shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank.

The group said that based on public announcements, the amount of land involved may go beyond the shoreline that has been exposed as a result of the drop in the sea’s water level, an estimated metre every year.

“It would appear that the primary purpose of registering this area as ‘state land’ is to prevent Palestinian use of the land or any Palestinian assertion of ownership over it,” the group said in a statement.

The move goes against statements by hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as recently as mid-June that the state did not intend to expropriate any additional land in the occupied Palestinian territory.

In the West Bank, “the designation of ‘state land’—land to be held in trust by the occupying power and to be used for the benefit of the indigenous population—has been abused as a form of de facto expropriation,” Peace Now said.

“Since 1967, Israel has declared or registered huge areas of the West Bank as ‘state land’ and virtually all of this land has been given over for the exclusive use and exclusive benefit of Israeli settlers and the Israeli military,” it said.—Sapa-AFP