In an unprecedented move, the state has agreed to compensate six Palestinian landowners because it failed to protect their private property, which is now part of the unauthorized Amona outpost in the West Bank. The Palestinians will also be paid for loss of earnings due to their inability to access the property.
“It is the first time, ever,” that the state has agreed to do this, attorney Michael Sfard, who represented the Palestinians on behalf of the Israeli non-governmental group Yesh Din, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
He spoke after the state and his clients signed a settlement that ended a 2008 civil claim before a Jerusalem magistrate’s court.
Based on the settlement, the state will pay the landowners NIS 300,000 for 2002 to 2014. If the state does not evacuate the outpost in the next year, the state will pay the Palestinian landowners another NIS 48,000.
Sfard said the compensation figure was not about the value of the land, which would have been much higher, but for these two elements, the state’s failure to protect the property and for the loss of earnings.
What was significant here, Sfard said, is the overall impact on future land cases involving illegal use of Palestinian land in the West Bank. The Amona outpost is located just outside the Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region of the West Bank. According to the 2005 government-sponsored report on West Bank outposts by private attorney Talia Sasson, the outpost was built on private Palestinian property without the necessary permits.
The Construction and Housing Ministry spent NIS 2.16 million in infrastructure for Amona, according to Sasson.
In response to a Yesh Din petition about the outpost’s illegality, the High Court of Justice initially ordered the state to demolish the hilltop community, which has 46 structures and is home to 42 families.
But the demolition has been delayed while a Jerusalem land court adjudicates a purchase claim by the settlers for land on which 16 structures are located.
Amona residents have argued that the demolition order for the outpost relates only to these 16 structures and not the other 30 structures on the outpost, which they say, can now remain. The High Court of Justice is expected to issue a new verdict on the matter.
But the NIS 300,000 settlement has no immediate bearing on either the purchase case before a Jerusalem land court or the larger issue of the outpost demolition pending before the High Court of Justice.
Still, Sfard said, he hoped the language in the settlement would be a factor in the other two pending Amona cases.
The main achievement of the settlement, he said, was not the sum of money but the legal text that was used.
“It was more important for us to get a good text, than a good figure,” he said.
“The text is such that the state concedes to several facts; that these lands are privately owned by Palestinians, construction was done illegally and that the state was involved and funded [some of] the construction,” he said.