The Israeli government is planning one of its largest schemes to illegally confiscate 22.500 Dunams (5559.87 Acres) that belong to the Palestinians in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, as part of its illegal “Greater Jerusalem” settlement project.Dr. Jad Ishaq, head of the Applied Research Institute (ARIJ) stated that Israel decided to rip-off 22.500 Dunams from Palestinians in Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.

The lands are behind the illegal Apartheid Wall in the area, and illegally fall under the so-called “Absentee Property Law”.

Dr. Ishaq stated that the Legal Adviser of the Israeli Government recommended that the “guardian” of absentee property [in this case the Israeli occupation] can use the property and place it under his authority.

The “law” comes in direct violation of all related international laws and international treaties, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Dr. Ishaq further stated that an Israeli court plans to examine the Israeli decision in September of this year, and added that should Israel implement its plan, Bethlehem will be turned into a human warehouse with high density, as all uninhabited lands will be illegally confiscated from their owners.

He said that Israeli plan targets Palestinian lands in Khirbit Al-Mazmourya, Khallit Ar-Ribway, Luka Mountain, Jabal Skhour, Wad Al-Jamal, Jaroun Al-Hummus, Cremisan and all of the lands that became isolated behind the Annexation Wall and the Gilo illegal settlement, in addition to lands in West Jerusalem.

The Palestinian expert further said that all of the lands in question have been labeled by the Jerusalem Municipality under “Project 2020” as “Green Areas”.

Areas that will be sold to Israeli institutions in order to complete the separation between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, as well as its separation from the rest of the West Bank by a complete belt and chain of settlements around the occupied city of Jerusalem.

Ishaq called on the Palestinian Authority to act on the international level in order to raise awareness regarding this very dangerous Israeli plan, and added that “this plan is the biggest land theft carried out by Israel since its establishment in the historic land of Palestine in 1948”.

On his part, Bethlehem Governor, Abdul-Fattah Hamayel, said that Israel is violating and bypassing all related international laws and treaties, and added that the Israeli “Legal System” is legalizing crimes and violations against the Palestinians and their property.

Hamayel stated that the Palestinian Authority must act now in order to stop this illegal plan, and all of Israel’s illegal activities.

The Governor also said that the Palestinian Authority does not trust the Israeli legal system, and that even if the Israeli Supreme Court decided ruled against the plan, the Israeli government will find ways to legalize the project the same way it did with numerous previous settlement projects that were eventually deemed “legal” by the Supreme Court.

He also said that Israel is using these projects in order to foil any attempt to resume the peace process, and is aborting any chances of success of the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry.

It is worth mentioning that Israel issued that “Absentee Property Law” in 1950 with the intention to illegally confiscate and rob Palestinian-owned lands that became part of the newly established state of Israel in the historic land of Palestine.

The so-called law also states, “Every person who lives outside the state of Israel, or lives in a hostile state, is considered absentee; his lands and property are taken over by the state, and are placed under the authority of the absentee property guardian of the Ministry of Justice”.