Jewish communities in Judea or Samaria (a.k.a. Jewish "settlements" in the "West Bank") as a rule are built on "state land". In short, land registration laws, starting in the Ottoman Empire and continuing under the British Mandate, Jordanian occupation and now Israel, divide land into a few categories, amongst them being: private land proven to belong to someone, land used by someone for at least ten years but without proof of ownership, and state land, which basically is all land not registered to anyone and not within 2.5 kilometers ("the call of a rooster") of the last house of a recognized town or village.

In all Judea and Samaria there are about 5.5 million dunam of land (about 1,360,000 acres). Of those: 129,000 are Jewish privately-owned land, which means land bought and paid for, 1,900,000 dunam are state land, another 1,900,000 dunam belong to or are in use by Arabs, and about 1,600,000 are either nature preserves or unregistered in any way. Since the Oslo Accords the lands in areas A and B are under the control of the Palestinian Authority whereas the lands in area C are under Israeli control.

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About thirty six years ago the High Court of Justice in Israel laid down the law that Jewish communities could be built only either on privately Jewish-owned land or on state land. Private Arab land – whether registered in the land registry as privately owned, or land that was used by someone for at least ten years even without proof of ownership – while they could be temporarily seized for pure military needs, they could not be used for building Jewish communities. Indeed the court in 1979 forced the government to move a Jewish community that had been partially established on private lands to a new location. Since then all Jewish communities are built on land owned by the state – not by Arab people.


So when people talk about lands stolen from Arabs in order to build homes for Jews – they are saying "a thing which is not" (to quote Jonathan Swift).

When the court decided in 1979 to have the Jewish community moved because it was built on private land, that had been seized for military reasons – and building a civilian community couldn't be considered a military necessity – there were some who thought that in principle it wasn't right to move a Jewish community, since after all, the land belongs to the Jewish nation. They turned to the spiritual leader of the "settlement" movement, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Cook, and sought his advice. He taught them that although the land of Israel, as a whole, should be under Jewish sovereignty, that is in regard to national ownership of the land in its entirety. However, within that, there are civil and property rights of every person living here, whether Jew, Druze or Arab. Therefore: although THE land belongs to the Jewish nation, there are lands – homes, fields, orchards and the like – that belong to individuals, whether they are Jews or Arabs. He explained that although he very much supports the efforts to build Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, two conditions must be met: one is that everything be lawfully done by the government, with no land-grabbing by individuals; two – the communities must be built on public land, not private land. It would be immoral to steal private land from Arabs in order to build homes for Jews, and the Jewish communities must be morally just.

We believe that there are no Arab lands in the sense of national sovereignty, since there never was an independent Arab state in the Holy Land. Yet there are private lands owned by Arabs who have the complete right to fully enjoy their private property without intervention or harassment, just the same as Jews. Our conflict is a national conflict with that part of the Arab world that would deny the Jewish nation the right to self-determination in our homeland, not with individual Arabs, as long as they live in peace with us. Interestingly, even the Arab members of the Israeli Knesset have admitted to the fact that since 1967 – the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria have been built next to Arab communities – not in place of them.

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