The West Bank Settlement of Givat Ze'ev.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Peace Now petitioned the High Court of Justice on Tuesday to force the state to make public new allocations of state land to West Bank settlements.
It clarified in the petition that it was not asking the state to stop such transfers, but rather it was insisting that they should be public and not secret so that they fell in line with the principles of good governance and international law.
Some 98.7% of land allocations in Area C of the West Bank went to Israeli settlements and only 1.3% went to Palestinian communities, Peace Now said.
The secrecy that surrounds such allocations makes it impossible for the Palestinians to oppose them or ask that the land be assigned to them instead, said the Left-wing non-governmental organization.
“Such blatant discrimination is the direct result of the abnormal process of land allocations” in the West Bank, Peace Now said in its petition.
The fact that these transactions are made “in the dark, behind closed doors and in complete secrecy” indicates that the Defense Ministry knows that its land transfer policy is problematic, Peace Now said.
A small plot of land in the Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron was among the examples Peace Now used to illustrate the confusion that stemmed from the lack of transparency.
The Civil Administration had for decades rented the property to two Palestinian brothers who resided in the neighborhood — Abdel Aziz Abu and Ferial Abu Haikal — but failed to notify them when it terminated the lease, according to Hagit Ofran of Peace Now.
It simply stopped sending bills.
Years later the Civil Administration rented it instead to a group that belonged to the Hebron Jewish Community, which together with the Antiquities Authority began an archaeological dig there, Ofran said.
The brothers assumed that their Jewish neighbors along with the Antiquities Authority were trespassing on their land and turned to the High Court of Justice.
It was only through the court case that they discovered that the lease had been transferred to Hebron settlers, Ofran said.
The second case that underscores the problem relates to 1,341 dunams in a neighborhood in the settlement of Efrat in the Gush Etzion region, called Givat HaEitam, said Ofran.
After studying the property, the Civil Administration declared that those dunams were state land. Members of the Palestinian village of Artas who believe the property belonged to their community, which is adjacent to Efrat, petitioned the High Court of Justice against the reclassification of the land.
Ofran said Peace Now is concerned if the High Court of Justice upholds the re-classification of the land, the property could than be allocated for housing for Efrat residents without anyone knowing about it.
That is why it is important for such transactions to be transparent, she said.