(Israel Twitter)-November 2006 Peace Now acquired a report (which it claims was leaked from the Israeli Government's Civil Administration) indicating that as much as 40 percent of the settlement land that Israel plans to retain in the West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians. Peace Now further claims that this is a violation of Israeli law. The Washington Post reported that "The 38-page report offers what appears to be a comprehensive argument against the Israeli government's contention that it avoids building on private land, drawing on the state's own data to make the case. Peace Now published statistics and aerial maps for each individual settlement. A recent report by Peace Now, allegedly based on official data provided by the Civil Administration following a court struggle cites a lower figure of 32%, a figure rejected by the Civil Administration.
In February 2008, The Civil Administration admitted that more than a third of West Bank settlements were built on private Palestinian land, originally seized by the IDF for 'security purposes. The unauthorized seizure of private Palestinian land has been defined by the Civil Administration itself in a recent case as theft.
The Spiegel report, commissioned by the Israeli Defense Ministry, also details a large amount of land theft by Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The report reveals that some settlements deemed legal by Israel are in part, and sometimes in large part, effectively illegal outposts, and that large portions of veteran Israeli settlements, including Ofra, Elon Moreh and Beit El were built on private Palestinian land.
According to the Israeli government, the majority of the land currently occupied by the new settlements was vacant or belonged to the state (from which it was leased) or bought fairly from the Palestinians.
The recent use of the Absentee Property Law to "transfer, sell or lease any real estate property" in East Jerusalem owned by Palestinians who live elsewhere (usually in the West Bank) without compensation has been criticized both inside and outside of Israel.
Opponents of the settlements claim that "vacant" land had either belonged to Arabs who had fled or belonged collectively to an entire village, a practise that had developed under Ottoman rule. B'Tselem claims that the Israeli government used the absence of modern legal documents for the communal land as a legal basis for expropriating it.