Mayor of Efrat Oded Revivi spoke to Arutz Sheva on Wednesday about the media firestorm over Israel's declaring 4000 dunams as "state land" Sunday, explaining that the term "annexation" is a misnomer.
"Despite the fact that Israel didn't do any annexation, despite the fact no legal change has happened, despite the fact that Israel has only decided to redeclare state that had already been declared state land at the time of the Turks, people are starting to accuse Israel of 'annexation,'" Revivi explained. "That needs to be put to a stop right now before it gets to be used like the term 'occupied territories."
Roughly 4,000 dunams (988 acres) of land, mostly in and near Gush Etzion (where Efrat is located) were declared 'state land' Sunday, in a move linked to Operation Brother's Keeper to crack down on terror in Judea and Samaria in June.
The move would see the land opened for greater Jewish development, including building more homes - a necessity during Israel's housing crisis. Judea and Samaria is reportedly over 90% unpopulated, leading many to argue that the development of Israel's biblical heartland would solve the housing crisis plaguing the Jewish state.
Meanwhile, several media sources - including the New York Times - labeled the move as 'annexation of occupied land,' despite the fact that Israel has never been shown to have violated international law by building over 1949 Armistice lines.
As such, Revivi wrote a letter to the Times over the issue. While the letter fell on the Times's cutting room floor, it is reprinted in full here below.
In response to your article "Israel Claims Nearly 1000 Acres of West Bank Land Near Bethlehem" Aug. 31, 2014, and the allegation that the land is privately owned by Arabs, I would like to clarify the matter with the following factual information:
In 1967, Israel became the sovereign authority in Judea and Samaria. Preceding Israel was Jordan, who replaced the British in 1947. Before the British, the Turks ruled over the land of Israel and controlled the land that over time had passed from one nation to the next.
Today Judea and Samaria is being held by the Israeli government which has inherited all the legal property rights. (Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria between 1948 till 1967, but their occupation was only recognized by Britain and Pakistan).
According to the Turkish land registration, there are essentially two types of land – private land and State-owned land. The government of Israel is very careful not to make any use of private land, and as for State land, there is a long and complex public procedure that the government undertakes before making use of State lands, and this is to make sure not to harm any private person by depriving him of his rights.
The declaration publicized in the New York Times is proof of this very public procedure and allows for anyone who feels himself harmed to come forth and prove his rights to the land.
I would like to use this opportunity to make an additional comment. In English it is customary to term the areas of Judea and Samaria as "occupied territories". To those using this term, I would like to ask, occupied from whom?
If we go back to the registration of rights from the time that the Turks ruled, it is clear that there are private lands that were registered as such and which the State of Israel does not dispute and does not touch. On the other hand, to who do the State lands belong to? The Turkish government does not claim their ownership and neither do the British. The Jordanians, in their peace treaty with Israel, declared that they are relinquishing any claim of ownership to the lands of Judea and Samaria.
If we examine the declarations and decisions of the United Nations and other bodies that preceded the UN, it can be proven that these lands were designated for the State of Israel and as such, the State of Israel is permitted to make use of these lands.
As pointed out above, the State of Israel exercises extreme caution before making use of these lands (even though these lands have been part of the historical Jewish State from Biblical times), and it would be proper if those that attack and criticize her would have knowledge of the legal foundations of the issue before voicing condemnations.