A new legal opinion issued by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit yesterday (15.11) seeks to approve the confiscation of private Palestinian lands in order to legalize an access road to a settlement. As a part of the government’s efforts to legalize the illegal outpost of Haresha (west of Ramallah), in 2011 the government had declared of over 800 dunams as “state lands” in the area, but then it became apparent that the illegal outpost is completely surrounded by private Palestinian lands that cannot be declared “state lands.” The AG’s legal opinion allows the confiscation of private Palestinian land in the area, in order to legalize the access road to Haresha.
Peace Now: “confiscating the land would constitute a severe violation of international humanitarian law and of the Palestinians’ right to own property. The AG’s legal opinion regarding the access road might lead to additional confiscations of private Palestinian lands, strengthening Israel’s stronghold over Palestinian territory. The AG seeks to allow the confiscation of lands owned by Palestinians, who have no voting rights in Israel for the benefit of Israeli settlers with full rights. If the Netanyahu government will continue down this path it will lead us towards a one state reality, based on discrimination and theft.”
Throughout the years, the Israeli government’s position, alongside decisions of the High Court of Justice, was that it is prohibited to confiscate private lands for the purpose of settlement. This prohibition made it impossible for the government to retroactively legalize housing units built on private Palestinian lands. Now, it appears that the AG is attempting to remove the last legal (and moral) barrier on the road to turn theft and expulsion into a formal way of establishing settlements in the Occupied Territories.
It is important to note that the legal opinion does not explicitly allow any confiscation for the purpose of settlement. Rather, it states that in certain cases, confiscation of land can be considered legitimate. It also states that any intention to confiscate private Palestinian lands in another area must be approved by the AG.
The AG is basing his legal opinion on a recent ruling by Justice Jubran of the High Court of Justice, in the petition of landowners from Silwad and Yesh Din against the intention to use their lands, which are considered “abandoned property,” for a temporary solution to the Amona evacuees. Justice Jubran states that the settlers residing in the Occupied Territories can be considered a part of the “local population,” and that in certain cases, the right of land ownership of Palestinians can be violated for the benefit of settlers.