The Palestinian Authority, aided by the European Union, is taking control of a strategic area in the heart of the Etzion Bloc, between Highway 60 and Neveh Daniel.

Over the past two years, the P.A. has created, out of thin air, a “historic” village—that just so happens to be located on a strategic point adjacent to the Jerusalem-Hebron highway. The name given to this new “ancient” village: Shoshkhalah.

Yishai Hemo, Judea and Samaria field coordinator for Israeli NGO Regavim, describes the methodology: “Over the course of the past two years, activists from the Arab town of Al Khader, backed by P.A. and European Union funding, occupied the ruins of two ancient shomerot  (watchman’s huts)—primitive stone structures used by passing shepherds or farmers as shelter from the elements—that dot the landscape in the Jerusalem and Sataf areas. They renovated these abandoned structures and turned them into homes—and from that point, in very short order, totally new structures have been added in the surrounding area.”

The signs posted on the refurbished buildings, proudly bearing the European Union emblem, explain that the site is an ancient village—Shoshkhalah—despite the fact that aerial photos paint a completely different picture: In the past two years, more than 15 homes have been built in this “village,” each connected to solar power infrastructure and water tanks paid for by the Europeans.

Analysis of aerial photos from 1967, as well as historic maps dating back to 1880, prove that there was never any settlement of any kind at the site.

“This is another phase in the P.A.-European Union program to seize control over strategic  areas,” says Hemo. “We are all too familiar with the program—from illegal construction in the Adumim Region, from land grabs and highly developed construction projects on Israel Defense Forces training grounds in the Hebron Hills and Gush Etzion, and from the extensive agricultural work that the P.A. is carrying out as a means of securing ownership rights to tens of thousands of dunams that have been illegally seized for Roots Project activity.

“The ‘ancient village’ of Shoshkhalah is just one more example of the fact that there is no such thing as a vacuum. When the State of Israel fails to regulate and register land in Judea and Samaria, the P.A. takes advantage of the opportunity to seize this land and annex it, de facto, to its jurisdiction.”

Naomi Kahn is director of the International Division of Regavim, a research-based think tank and lobbying group dedicated to preserving Israel’s resources and sovereignty.