Israel seeks to resume building on private Palestinian land in 40 West Bank settlements

Israel/Palestine
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Illegal construction work resumes in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.
Photo by Azmi Badeer / Yesh Din

Only a few months after Israel carried out the High Court ruling to evacuate the illegal settlement buildings of Uplana, which was built on private Palestinian property, the State is back in court working to retroactively legalize illegal structures. As new illegal construction resumes only a few meters from the evacuated buildings , the state is claiming that old military expropriation orders in effect prior to a 1979 court order, known as the Elon Moreh ruling , allow for construction on privately owned Palestinian land.

Press Release Yesh Din:

The state wants to officially renew building on private Palestinian land in 40 settlements built on land seized by military orders before 1979.
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By pursuing this policy the state is renouncing the Elon Moreh ruling. The decision has momentous international consequences because it violates commitments the government of Israel made in the “road map” and at the Annapolis summit.

The state’s response to the court indicates that the political echelon intends to legalize the construction – which is on private Palestinian land – since there is nothing to preclude it from doing so in this case (according to the state’s position) in order to exhaust the full building potential of Beit El and preserve the interests that led to the establishment of Beit El; furthermore, the seizure order was issued before the Elon Moreh ruling was given.

This means that in 40 existing settlements built on the basis of military seizure orders (orders issued for temporary military-security needs) where construction continued after the Elon Moreh ruling, the state’s position is that exhaustion of the planning channels should be permitted. The state concedes that issuing new military seizure orders to build civilian settlements has been forbidden since the Elon Moreh ruling was issued, but maintains there is no preclusion to realizing those that were issued before the ruling for civilian construction, even if it is not military (and cannot be military).

Haim Erlich, Yesh Din executive director: “In its eagerness to pursue building for Jews only, the state continues to violate the right to private property of the Palestinians it is obligated to protect, while trampling on Supreme Court rulings that were accepted by Israeli governments through the ages, and in blatant violation of international law.”

Haaretz

The government is working to enable new construction and has retroactively approved existing construction on private Palestinian land in more than 40 settlements, based on old expropriation orders that were issued for military purposes.

The efforts were revealed in the state’s response to a High Court of Justice petition filed by the Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights organization regarding the non-enforcement of demolition orders issued for structures built in Beit El on private land.

In the submission to the court, the State Prosecution acknowledged that some 40 Israeli communities in the West Bank were erected totally or partially based on expropriation orders for private land issued for military purposes.

The prosecution admitted that construction continued in these communities even after the Elon Moreh ruling of 1979, which stipulated that the army had power to confiscate land only for pure military purposes, and not for civilian settlements. But, the state argued, that ruling “does not prevent exploiting the potential of these communities.”

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The petition was submitted by attorneys Michael Sfard, Shlomo Zaharia, Avisar Lev and Mohammed Shaqier, from the Yesh Din legal team. 

Ynet quotes Dror Etkes, and activist who documents illegal settlement construction:

“It seems that in order for these phenomena to stop, the State of Israel would have to undergo brain marrow transplant so as to replace the criminal DNA that has taken over the government.”

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