The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) in 2015 re-mapped an area of 62 thousand hectares in Judea and Samaria, in a manner that may hint at plans for wide range construction there, Ha’aretz reported Tuesday. The re-mapping is carried out by a special task force dubbed the “blue line” team, within COGAT. The work involves examining state lands that were declared in the last century. The old maps are being digitally scanned to enhance their accuracy. The report notes that Israeli law demands re-mapping areas that were declared state land before 1999 before releasing them to construction.
The report, composed by Dror Etkes, founder of Kerem Navot, an NGO “monitoring the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” is based entirely on speculation over the map digitizing effort at COGAT, which may be simply an administrative move to preserve them, rather than a secret plot to populate those areas. However, since Etkes is not a newcomer to observing and reporting on the Jewish settlement enterprise, his conclusions, coming as they are from a hostile, left wing source, may be a cause for (muted) celebration in right wing circles.
“It’s important to understand that the mapping efforts are directed almost exclusively at the depth of Judea and Samaria and to settlements which are well outside the ‘settlement clusters,’ as well as, most emphatically, to areas declared by Israel to be ‘fire zones’ despite the fact that in reality they are part of the lands reserve which Israel gradually assigns to settlement,” Etkes told Ha’aretz.
The re-mapping effort of those 62 thousand hectares constitutes a significant increase in the rate of this work, compared with only 20 thousand hectares re-mapped in 2014 and 13 thousand in 2013.
Ha’aretz speculates that one of the goals of the new, wholesale re-mapping effort, is intended to deny Arabs living in the fire zones the right to appeal to Israel’s Supreme Court against infrastructure and construction work carried out near their homes. Should such appeals be filed, Israel would be within its rights to argue that the Arab homes were built after the area had been declared state land.
Etkes also suggests that the re-mapping of areas near Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria indicates planned expansions. He noted 962 hectares re-mapped near Nokdim, and 3 hectares outside Gitit.