Palestinians in the village of Bil'in have declared a partial victory in their struggle against Israeli settlement expansion on their land, as several structures built to expand the Matityahu settlement were dismantled today. But in the rest of the West Bank, Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land are due to expand, with an Israeli court order ruling that Israeli authorities should allow settlement growth.
In Bil'in village, one of the most organized and well-known villages involved in the non-violent struggle against the Israeli Wall and settlement expansion on their land, two buildings were demolished by the Israeli company responsible for expanding the settlement. The demolition follows an Israeli Supreme Court order on July 20th, instructing the company to demolish the two partial structures.
The court order instructed the company to restore the land to its previous pre-colonial state, wherein the land was a flourishing olive grove, but local residents point out that the olive grove that was destroyed will take a thousand years to return to its previous state.
Abdullah Abu Rahme, an organizer with the Grassroots Committee Against the Wall in Bil'in, said in an interview with the IMEMC, "The area had been planted with ancient olive trees. The court decision says that the land should go back to its previous state, demolishing the construction, removing the rubble, placing red sand and replanting it with olive trees. But even if the land was returned, this is still a huge tragedy for the owners, there are massive monetary losses, and the land is not as it was before, there are losses and damage that the owners themselves have to bear."
Prior to the war with Lebanon last month, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been planning a 'convergence plan' in which Israeli settlements in the West Bank would be consolidated into major 'settlement blocs' which would be surrounded by the Israel Wall, and settlements outside the Wall would be dismantled. That plan has now been put on the back burner, as Olmert faces internal opposition on both the right and the left for his role in the war. Instead, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank will be allowed to expand indefinitely.
All Israeli settlements on occcupied Palestinian land are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel signed in 1953, and have been condemned by the International Court of Justice. There has been no enforcement of international law or the Court's ruling, however, and since 1993 settlements have increased ten-fold. There are currently 260,000 Israelis living in the occupied West Bank, and another 250,000 living in occupied east Jerusalem – most of them having moved there within the last ten years.