Mounted Israeli police scuffle with pro-settler supporters at the Amona outpost, February 1, 2006.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the engines of the bulldozers still warm from destroying the homes of the 42 Jewish Amona families, the Knesset on Monday night passed the “Regulation Law” in its final reading. The legislation, introduced by Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich, seeks to provide justice for thousands of families living in homes built throughout Judea and Samaria, in addition to the rightful landowners.
A Knesset press release explains the intricacies of the bill, which passed by a vote of 60-52, saying that “in many cases, settlements were built in agreed-upon areas, and were even encouraged or built in coordination with the state, or were built in good faith by the Israeli residents, who were unaware that this was privately-owned land. Leaving the situation as is in these settlements, or their destruction, is liable to seriously, unjustifiably harm those who have lived there for many years. Therefore, the regulation of these settlements is necessary.”
The bill’s introduction was a result of the research carried out by the Regavim Movement due to its understanding the potential threat to the homes in question, and raising awareness among MK.
Under the new law, homes built on disputed property would remain intact, while Arabs with legitimate claims to the land would be given alternate plots of land or monetary compensation totaling 125% of their land’s value.
It’s important to note that property claims – often brought forward on behalf of Arabs by extremist anti-Israel NGOs – will need to be verified, since until now land not classified as state land in Judea and Samaria was automatically deemed private land regardless of its true status.
But how did a situation arise to begin with in which Israeli homes were built on land whose status was questionable? According to the IDF Military Advocate General’s Corps, in 1979, prime minister Menachem Begin, in compliance with a ruling by the High Court of Justice, decided that establishing or enlarging communities in Judea and Samaria would only be carried out on state-owned land.
Therefore the need arose for Begin to properly identify the status of the land throughout Judea and Samaria. As opposed to the land in pre-1967 Israel, whose status was legislated during the 1950s and ‘60s, in Judea and Samaria this process never took place.
Charged with the task was attorney Plia Albeck, who ran the Civil Department of the State Prosecutor’s Office – ultimately for 24 years.
It took Albeck and her team years utilizing existing maps, aerial imagery, and going out into the field and exploring for themselves to make a declaration as to which properties were state land. The communities established in those areas were delineated on maps within blue lines indicating their legal status.
Whenever there were doubts about the classification of the land, Albeck was known to be stalwart in refraining from declaring them state lands.
As a result of Albeck’s work, in those areas deemed state land, properties were purchased, and houses went up without any legal issues.
However, in 1999, the Civil Administration charged with overseeing civilian life in Judea and Samaria decided to reassess Albeck’s findings.
A team of surveyors known as the State Property Delimitation Team, or the “Blue Line Team,” was established to utilize technologies that had been unavailable to Albeck to review her work.
Over the past 18 years the “Blue Line Team” has been reevaluating Albeck’s lines and redrawing their own blue lines in areas where even the slightest doubts arose. An example of the work of the Blue Liners is an incident in March 2016, when families living in 190 homes in the Binyamin region community of Eli woke up one morning to find themselves outside of the blue line of their town.
Technically speaking, their homes were no longer standing on state land, and therefore the homeowners ran the risk of having their homes demolished should an anti-Israel NGO come forward and claim the property belonged to a local Arab.
The Eli example shows how detrimental the effects could have been for those who built their homes years before only to become threatened with eviction and demolition, literally as a result of a new blue line on a map. The Regulation Law passed Monday night cancels that risk.
Ultimately, that’s why the bill’s passage was crucial. Jewish landowners and their families who bought homes in good faith and with government support and lived there for years based on Albeck’s findings shouldn’t become homeless and have to endure all the trauma that goes with an eviction because of new blue lines.
60 members of Knesset understood this and voted to pass the bill. Thanks to the new law a just solution has been provided for all who are involved.The author is the international director for Regavim, a think-tank dedicated to researching land issues throughout Israel.