Diakonia - People change the world

Land expropriation methods & planning

Until 1979, land expropriation for settlement construction was usually justified by reference to Israel’s military needs. Today land for settlement construction is acquired through declaring them state lands, absentee property or expropriating them for public use.

In 1979, a landmark decision by the Israeli High Court of Justice in the case Dweikat et al. v. Government of Israel et al., also known as Elon Moreh , forced the Government to abandon the justification of military needs for settlement construction and expansion.

Subsequently, Israel started taking control of lands in the oPt by declaring them state land, using an interpretation of Ottoman land laws. Additionally, more lands were appropriated by Israel as they were declared absentee property of Palestinians who are not present in the oPt, and for this reason were deprived of their land ownership. Israel also seizes land for settlements and their infrastructures by expropriating it for public use. In practice, the ability of a Palestinian to effectively object to the establishment of a settlement is virtually non-existent.

For the Palestinian communities it is hard to expand, and building is restricted. The regional outline plans, issued by the British Mandate to regulate building in the West Bank, are still in force in Area C. Not allowing for expansion, they cannot meet the needs of the growing Palestinian population. Although most Palestinians live in Areas A and B, where planning and building responsibilities have been transferred to the Palestinian Authority, land reserves that could be used for building on the edges of existing communities, are located in Area C.

Conversely, amendments to the mandatory outline plans for the expansion of the settlements are regularly made. Such amendments allow the Civil Administration to approve the establishment and expansion of settlements without having to waive the old plans, which represent an effective tool to restrict the expansion of Palestinian communities.

In the 1990s, the Supreme Planning Council prepared new plans for some 400 villages. The plans allowed for expansion through filling vacant lots, building higher buildings and increase population density rather than expanding areas on which construction is allowed. Thus, the effective result has been to limit existing areas on which construction is allowed, rather than designating new areas for Palestinian expansion

Financial Support

Israelis receive financial incentives and benefits to move across the Green Line to live in many of the settlements in the oPt. Most of the settlements are defined as national priority areas for development, and receive financial support and benefits according to their level of national priority.

These benefits can include loans for purchasing property, discounts on the cost of land lease, free childcare, free school transportation as well as reductions in income taxes. In addition, financial benefits are available for investors in the industrial zones of the settlements, which are also considered priority areas. 

Israeli and Palestinian workers often receive different salaries and benefits, even if they work in the same workplace in the oPt. Although Israeli labour law applies to both Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinian workers are often threatened by their employers with discontinuation of work permits if they ask for the proper application of labour legislation.

Infrastructure, services and water

Security measures to protect the settlement

Since the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, Palestinian residents of the oPt are forbidden from entering settlements and the lands included in their jurisdiction, without special authorisation, issued by the Israeli military commander. Such permits are difficult to obtain, normally they can be acquired through the intervention of an Israeli citizen.

Road and transportation systems

There is a separate transportation network for settlers, the so-called bypass roads that aim at bypassing Palestinian built-up areas by creating a new road system connecting the settlements. In addition, hundreds of checkpoints and other obstacles are scattered throughout the oPt, effectively preventing Palestinians from moving freely .

The Jerusalem light railway is another infrastructure project that connects settlements surrounding Jerusalem to the western part of the city, thus fully integrating areas of the occupied territory with West Jerusalem.


In services such as water networks and pipes, Palestinians and Israeli settlers receive different treatment. Many Palestinian communities are not connected to a water network through pipelines and have to rely on alternative water sources, such as collection of rainwater or water from springs and purchasing water delivered by trucks. Palestinians are more affected by the recurrent water shortages in the region due to the unequal access to water. Additionally, the quality of spring water is not guaranteed and is more sensitive to pollution, often caused by the presence of settlements. For example, the sewage of Ariel settlement pollutes the spring water of the Palestinian town of Salfit.

Water consumption

The water consumption of the settlers compared to the one of Palestinians in the oPt is extremely unbalanced. The average Palestinian in the West Bank consumes barely 70 litres of water a day, whereas the average Israeli settler consumes more than 300 litres. The water consumption of agricultural Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, that number around 10,000 inhabitants, is equivalent to 75 percent of the water consumption of the entire Palestinian population in the whole West Bank, approximately 2 million people!

In Gaza, some 90 percent of the water supply is contaminated and considered unfit for human consumption . Even before the military operations, 80 percent of the water supplied in Gaza did not meet the World Health Organization’s standards for drinking water .