In a sharply worded statement UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman remarked on Tuesday that Israel’s reclassification was “an impediment to the 2-state solution.
The United Nations called on Israel to rescind its reclassification as state land of 2,342 dunams (578 acres) in the Jordan Valley near the Palestinian city of Jericho.
The property in Area C of the West Bank is located within the boundaries of the Megilot Regional Council and borders both sides of Route 1 as it heads down to the Dead Sea.
In a sharply worded statement United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman said on Tuesday that the reclassification was “an impediment to the two state solution.”
“Such actions appear to point toward an increase in settlement activity and demonstrate that Israel is continuing to push forward in the consolidation of its control of the West Bank,” Ban said in a statement his press secretary read out at the noon briefing in New York.
“Settlements are illegal under international law and the secretary general urges the government of Israel to halt and reverse such actions in the interest of a just and comprehensive peace and a just and final status agreement,” the spokesman said.
The large tract of mostly empty desert terrain includes 1,500 dunams (371 acres) whose reclassification was first reported in January.
“In accordance with the decision of the political level and the examining of the professional authorities, 2,342 dunam [578 acres] have been declared as State lands,” a spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said on Tuesday.
There will be a 45 day appeal process.
The Civil Administration’s Head of Government Property signed the decision on March 10, as US Vice President Joe Biden left Israel after a two-day visit, according to the NGO Peace Now which monitors Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines.
During Biden’s 2010 visit, plans were advanced for 1,600 new apartment units in the east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo. News of those plans broke while Biden was in Israel and cast a pall over his visit. This time, news of the Jordan Valley reclassification, which was first publicized by Army Radio, broke well after Biden was back in Washington.
According to Peace Now, some of the reclassified property is already in use along Route 1 for road-side stands and restaurants. This includes the landmark gas station and rest stop Almog Al Haderech.
There is a plan to expand tourism and trade opportunities in the area that was awaiting the land reclassification, Peace Now said.
Some of the land is located within the boundaries of the Almog settlement, which can now move forward on a plan to build 358 new homes, according to Peace Now.
The reclassification concludes a study by the Civil Administration into the ownership of the property, much of which was already assumed to be state land.
Megilot Regional Council spokeswoman said she had not comment on the matter. But former Megilot Regional Council head Mordechai Dahman said the issue of the reclassification had been in the works for over three decades.
The Civil Administration “kept checking and rechecking” the whole issue of property ownership, he said.
PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat condemned the reclassification.
It is part of Israel’s “plan to impose an apartheid regime in occupied Palestine,” he said.
“Israel, the occupying power, continues its colonial project by maintaining its belligerent occupation and by annexing more Palestinian lands throughout the occupied West Bank, including the Jordan Valley,” he said.
Erekat noted that the Palestinian leadership was informed of the decision while France’s special envoy Pierre Vimont was visiting Ramallah to discuss plans to jump-start the peace process by holding an international conference this summer.
The US denounced the reclassification of the initial 371 acres. In the past, it has said that it opposes settlement activity including at the planning level.
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