Settler leaders have derided the plan as a “reward for terror.” (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, Filw)
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QALQILIYA, Palestine: Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government quietly passed one of its most significant concessions to the Palestinians: A plan to alter the occupied West Bank map and turn over a small chunk of Israeli-controlled territory.As the West Bank's most densely populated Palestinian city, Qalqiliya has been eagerly awaiting implementation of the Israeli plan that would allow it to double its size by expanding into land that has until now been off-limits.The fate of Qalqiliya, which lies along the de facto Israeli border and is surrounded on three sides by Israel's separation barrier, touches on one of the conflict's thorniest issues: the battle over the 60 percent of the West Bank known as Area C.With the backing of the Israeli military, Israel's Cabinet approved the expansion plan last year.All Israeli settlements are in Area C, and Israel has been reluctant to give Palestinians construction permits there, often demolishing what it calls illegally built structures. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers have been pushing to expand the settlements.
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