|The Peace Now report, which was publicized widely in newspapers all over the world, "shows that Israel has effectively stolen privately-owned Palestinian land for the purpose of constructing settlements," the group's website says.
A website summary of the report states that most Yesha settlements - 130 of them - have been constructed either entirely or partially on private Arab-owned land, and that this is illegal according to a Supreme Court ruling of 1979.
Hundreds of Thousands of Jews in Yesha, Golan and Jerusalem
Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz of Beit El - a veteran leader of the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria - dismissed the report out of hand. "They merely want to weaken us and the State of Israel, and to maintain themselves in the news," he told Arutz-7. "After what we have seen in Gaza, with the failure of the Disengagement and the senseless uprooting of thousands of Jews, which has led to the bombardment and near-emtpying out of Sderot, they know that talk of another withdrawal is out of the question. So they want to keep themselves in the headlines and publicize reports like this - but it is totally false. The Supreme Court has ruled dozens of times on these matters, and always found that the contested communities and lands were legal."
"What, do they really think that we are going to uproot Maaleh Adumim and its 40,000 inhabitants? They simply don't know what to do with the 600,000 Jews who now live in Yesha, the Golan and the new neighborhoods of Jerusalem... The purpose of publicizing that report is merely to aggrandize themselves and keep themselves in the headlines."
The Yesha Council has reacted thus far with only a general and non-detailed denial, pending its review of the alleged evidence that even Peace Now admits was secret.
"Until 1979," Council Spokesperson Emily Amrousi told Arutz-7, "new communities, towns and neighborhoods were built all over Israel on privately-owned land, by military order. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that this could no longer be done - and since then, the government has carefully adhered to that principle in building new communities."
Communities Were Built Based on Careful Gov't-Sponsored Research
A former IDF lawyer told Arutz-7 that decisions as to where to build new communities in Judea and Samaria were based on careful and precise research, for the express purpose of making sure to avoid all privately-owned land.
The late Pliah Albeck, as head of the Civil Department in the Justice Ministry, was responsible for locating lands in Judea and Samaria for Jewish communities. "She was extraordinarily careful to make sure that no land that could be considered privately-owned was used," the IDF lawyer said. "She was extra stringent, and many communities were not even built because of her findings. She would go out to the area and check to see if land that was not registered was used for grazing; she didn't want anyone's sustenance to suffer because of a new community..."
"One community on the east side of Highway 60 had actually been planned to be on the west," the lawyer said, "but was moved because of what she found... There were dozens of court suits against new communities, but the Supreme Court always accepted her opinions."
One source familiar with the area in Judea and Samaria said that "perhaps 5%" of the uninhabited land there is privately-owned. "Vast areas in Judea and Samaria lay totally desolate in 1967 when Israel liberated them in the Six Day War," he said. "In addition, it is likely that Peace Now used strange definitions of the term 'privately-owned.' For instance, the Turks [who ruled the Holy Land up until 1917] would sometimes tax someone for a plot of land because he planted a tree on it - and then left-wing groups come along and say that his great-great-grandson, who no longer lives in the area, is the owner of the plot... In addition, sometimes one parcel of land may have been privately-held, leading some to jump to the conclusion that all the area around it is privately-held."