Israeli media sources reported on Tuesday that two months ago the Israeli vice Premier ,Haim Ramon, told the Israeli parliament that the settlement of Ofra, located in the southern part of the West Bank, was entirely built on privately owned Palestinian land.
The Ofra settlement, established in 1975 and located near Nablus city, includes 450 housing units.
Israelis often refer to it as the "Mother of Settlements" in the northern part of the West Bank. The statement of the Israeli official is the first to be made by an Israeli government official ever regarding the old established settlements that include Ofra and other major settlements in the West Bank.
Ramon's office told the Israeli online daily, Haaretz, that the Israeli official made his statement based on information from the Israeli army records.
The newspaper added that the statement was made during a session of the Israeli parliament state control committee which included Pinhas Wallerstein, a leader in the Israeli West Bank settlements Council who was one of the first people settle in Ofra.
In late February of this year, the Israeli Peace Now movement has managed to win a court decision that enabled the movement to extract dates from the Israeli army about West Bank settlements under the freedom of information act; the report showed that 44 of the 120 major Jewish settlement blocks in the West Bank were built on privately-owned Palestinian lands that were taken by the army either by confiscation orders, or for "security needs."
Moreover the date shows that 19 of those 44 settlements, which are built on privately-owned Palestinian lands, were constructed after the 1979 decision of constructing settlements and expanding existing ones on Israeli state-owned land only.
The Issue of land ownership in the West Bank also generated a heated debate in the Israeli political scene. The Israeli army have followed several strategies to take over Palestinian land from its owners, the Palestinians.
These strategies included forbidding farmers from reaching their lands, then after five years deeming it as no man's land and taking the land, confiscating it for security reasons, and the most recent is the illegal wall Israel is building which annexes thousands of Acres of Palestinian owned land to Israel.
In addition to heavily damaging the economic life of Palestinian farmers, the settlements also prevent the natural growth of the Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
All major settlements are situated around major Palestinian cities, and take control of available water resources, leaving Palestinians with chronic conditions of water-shortage.
To connect the settlements of the West Bank to Israel and to protect them, the Israeli army and state have created 500 checkpoints in the West Bank in addition to a massive network of settlers' roads that divide the West Bank into 64 separate areas making it impossible for Palestinians to move freely between Palestinian areas.
The issue of Israeli settlements is a stumbling block for the Palestinian Israeli peace talks. Last November, Israel agreed during the one day American sponsored Annapolis conference to freeze all settlement activity in the West Bank, instead Israeli has increased settlement activity by approving 2000 new housing units to be added to the settlements in and outside the city of Jerusalem as well as the rest of the West Bank.
Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, warned Israel last week that peace talks cannot go on while settlements are still being constructed. Palestinian officials say that settlements make it impossible for a future viable Palestinian state.