A committee of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior ruled Monday that the illegal Israeli settlement of Modi'in Illit should be granted legal status, despite the construction of unauthorized expansions by its governing council. All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, as Israel, as the occupying power, is not permitted to transfer its civilian population onto land occupied by military force.
But the Israeli government has continued to authorize certain settlements, while declaring others illegal. It is unclear what criteria are used by the Israeli government to make this determination. The Israeli government uses an obscure reference in Jordanian law to justify the construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank, although Jordan has not governed the West Bank since 1967. But what is clear is that the settlements, both authorized and unauthorized, continue to expand, despite Israeli 'road map' commitments to freeze settlement expansion.
The reason given for settlement expansion is usually a religious justification, with settlers claiming a 'God-given right' to expand the borders of the state of Israel further onto Palestinian land.
In the case of Modi'in Illit, the settlement itself is 'authorized' by the Israeli government. But the governing council of the Modi'in Illit settlement had been constructing an entirely new settlement, Matityahu East, without the approval of the Israeli government. Matityahu East was being constructed on the stolen land of the village of Bil'in. The village of Bil'in has beeen a symbol of Palestinian non-violent resistance, with weekly solidarity protests including Palestinians and Israelis, as well as court challenges in the Israeli court system. Two years ago the village's Israeli lawyers managed to win a case in the Israeli High Court of Justice that brought the construction of Matityahu East to a halt.
Michael Sfard, one of the attorneys, stated, "The takeover of the lands was carried out by a conspiracy involving private developers and Israeli authorities. Thus, criminal companies that stole private Palestinian lands won the protection of the fence – which was intended as a means of security and became a tool for annexation – as well as backing from the planning authorities, whose approval laundered the offenses."