When the PLO states that Israel must remove itself from “all occupied territories”, few people question what exactly do they mean by “all occupied territories” – the general concept being that they want Israel to leave the territories conquered in 1967.

Such a concept has been convenient for all Israeli governments to accept because the alternative would be the end of the State of Israel. It has enabled them to cover up the Palestinians true intent: to return to what they define as the “illegal Israeli occupied territories” to places such as Umm Khalid and Bayyarat Hannun – Netanya, Tabsur – Ra’anana, Kafr Sabs – Kfar Sava, Qumya – Kibbutz Ein Charod, Wa’arat al Sarris – Kiryat Ata, Qatra – Gedera, Sarafand al-Kharab and Wadi Hunayn – Nes Tziona, Yibna – Yavne, Abu Kishk – Herzliya, Saqiya – Or Yehuda, Jarisha – Ramat Gan, al-Jammasin al-Gharbi, al-Mas’udiyya, Salama, and al-Shaykh Muwannis – Tel Aviv, al-‘Abbasiyya – Savyon, ‘Ayn Karim – Ein Karem, Dayr Yassin – Givat Shaul. These are just a few places mentioned among the 531 “Illegal Israeli settlements” occupying “ethnically cleansed/destroyed Palestinian villages” within “Occupied Palestine from 1948”.

The PLO has a website which lists column after column the names of the previous Palestinian villages according to areas inside Israel, placing next to them the names of the current Israeli neighborhoods, towns and kibbutzes which have taken the place of these villages. To gain a full perspective of what the Palestinians are really after, check out the website: www.palestineremembered.com

Interesting enough, aside from Hebron, there is not one Jewish settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip mentioned as an Illegal Israeli settlement which has taken the place of a Palestinian village. The reason for this is simple. All land in Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip has been acquired by legal means. Any land belonging to Palestinians in the “occupied territories” from 1967, remain in Palestinian hands. Not one Israeli settlement built on land conquered in 1967 took the place of an Arab home, village or land. In the following paragraphs I will detail how the lands in the “occupied territories” of 1967 have been acquired.

As final proof that what the Palestinians are really after are their previous homes from 1948, one needs only to look back to less than one year ago when previous Prime Minister, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians over 95% of the “occupied territories” from 1967 including parts of Jerusalem. If that is what the PLO was really after, they would have taken this unprecedented generous offer and built a Palestinian state on these lands. Instead they have launched a campaign of terror against Israel, which shows no signs of letting up. The negotiations with Israel exploded over the “Right of Return” issue – the return to the borders of 1948.

After viewing the Palestinian website of “Illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories”, one can begin to understand why all Israeli governments were willing to use the “Israeli settlements from occupied territories in 1967” as negotiating pawns (“Freeze the settlements”, “remove settlements” “give back! settlements”). It really is not much different from the way the Palestinians have used their Palestinian refugees sitting in the refugee camps for 53 years as their political pawns. What is totally unacceptable is the widespread intentional lie that the settlers are sitting on land stolen from the Palestinians. This lie has been allowed to prevail for the sole purpose of it serving the goals of the governments of Israel to distract Israeli public opinion as well as the world at large from the Palestinians true intent. To return to the “occupied lands” which today make up most of the State of Israel.

Particularly offensive is the stand the Israeli-left take in demonstrating against the settler movement living on land conquered in 1967. Their senseless allegations even after the final showdown between Barak and Arafat that the “settlements are the obstacle to peace” are inexcusable. Many of these accusers are sitting themselves in what is defined by the PLO as “illegal occupied settlements”. Their own flat refusal to negotiate over their own homes within the Green Line which are on the PLO’s list of demands stand in glaring contrast to their demands that Israeli settlers leave their homes (which were not taken from any individual Arab) and hand them over to the Palestinians, who never owned them in the first place.

The state of Israel had every right to take possession of the Arab villages and properties from 1948 which were acquired during a defensive war when the Arabs of Palestine together with five invading Arab armies sought to destroy the newly created State of Israel. Just like all the European countries which once populated millions of property owning Jews, (Poland’s population consisted of 50% Jews) never relinquished the property back to the original Jewish owners who were either murdered or to the few remaining survivors or to their descendants – Israel had taken possession of these lands for its own purposes. If anything, Israel had a moral right to do so, since the Arabs who either fled their homes or were advised to do so by the invading Arab armies were Israel’s enemies and out to destroy it – unlike the Jews of Europe who were persecuted for the sake of being Jewish.

Professor Yossi Katz, from the Geography Department at Bar Ilan University and author of 13 books on related issues, explains the process of acquiring land in the West Bank and Gaza. “The process of taking possession of the land in the West Bank after 1967 was done in a completely legal fashion and did not involve in any shape or form the taking over of Arab owned land.”

“There are three categories for possession of land in the West Bank and Gaza. The first category is purchase of land from Arab land owners. This was common from 1967 until the mid 1980’s until death threats were made by Arab nationalists on Arab land dealers who sold land to Jews. Even with this death threat over their heads, there are still Arab land owners who have been successful in selling land either in secret or through a middle man. This of course is a completely legal action.”

“The other category for taking possession of the land is through what is called ‘administrative territories’ – which means state owned lands. These state owned lands originally belonged to the Turkish government when Palestine was ruled by the Ottoman Empire (over a 400 year period). Meaning that from the start these were state owned lands – not owned by private individuals – which passed through various hands depending on who was ruling Palestine at the time. Afterwards these lands were transferred to the British when they ruled, then to Jordan when they conquered the territory in 1948 and finally the state lands became Israel’s when the area was conquered by Israel in 1967.”

These disputed lands – called “state lands” – never belonged to the Palestinians. All the Palestinians who fled their homes in 1948, did not own one grain of land on the West Bank. Any Arabs living on the West Bank and Gaza on privately owned land, continued to hold on to their land and grow, and expand without Israeli intervention.

“There is another category of lands which is called “Mawat” – dead lands: barren rocky lands, public lands. The state is allowed to declare them as its own based on the fact that no one is in possession of them and that they are not cultivated. To determine that these lands do not belong to anyone, the state checks the land registries, airview photographs showing the lands to be uncultivated and then when convinced that these lands have no ownership, advertises in Arabic in the Arab newspapers that the state has declared these lands as its own and anyone having any kind of legal deed to contest this is invited to do so. If any Arab is able to produce a land deed proving the land is theirs, then the state leaves the land to the Arab.”

“The third and smallest category of possession of the land, was the expropriation of the land. The expropriation of land was done legally. This is important to state because all the lands which the Arabs left in 1948 – four million dunams out of which 20 million dunams was land belonging to the State of Israel in pre-1967 were expropriated in the same fashion. Aside from the 12 million dunams of land in the Negev, there were eight million dunams of land left. Four million dunam of that land, i.e. 50% of settled land inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel was land left behind by the fleeing Arabs in 1948.”

“These lands were seized by the state’s Guardian of Absentee Assets after which the lands were transferred through a law called the “Development Authority law” – The Law for Transferring Assets, 1951. In this way the lands which were expropriated were transferred to the hands of the state of Israel. Since this same method was used for the expropriation of lands in the West Bank and Gaza, then if there is any question about it, it needs to be directed also to the lands within the Green Line which were transferred to Israel through the same method. All expropriation of land is part of Israel’s legal system. It is done legally.”

It is time to unmask the Plo’s true intent to take over the entire land of Israel. They see the entire State of Israel as “conquered Palestine” comprised of two parts: Conquered Palestine from 1948 and conquered Palestine from 1967. To be fair, the PLO have never concealed their true intent. They have stated it in their claims over and over. From the time of the Oslo Accords signed in 1992 they stated very clearly that it was their full intent to repossess their lands from before 1948. The Israeli governments are no less guilty that the rest of the world in hearing only their own rhetoric – that once the Palestinians have their own state on the “conquered territories from 1967”, they will be satisfied and finally lay down their weapons of war and live peacefully side by side with the State of Israel in the New Middle East. The legal status of the settlements in the West Bank and Gaza should not be a pawn in settling this issue.

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Noam Bedein is a director of the Sderot Media Center. It is a media advocacy center which portrays the human face of Sderot and southern Israel under siege, to the international media and public. Noam, a native of Tzfat, grew up in Efrat, Israel. After finishing the Beit El Yeshiva High School, Noam learned at a pre-Army training program in the Jordan Valley and then served for three years as an IDF sergeant for an artillery scout unit along the Lebanese border. After the army, Noam served as an emissary for The Jewish Agency in Boston, Massachusetts and then traveled for a year in the Far East.

Upon his return to Israel, Noam relocated to Sderot and pioneered the “Sderot Media Center for the Western Negev Ltd", which has spawned the Sderot Media Center. In this position, Noam is a photojournalist, lecturer and gives briefings to foreign government officials, embassies, foreign press and student groups from around the world.

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