Court: Israeli government must defend law seizing Palestinian property

The law marked the most significant potential change to the treatment of property in the West Bank over the last 40 years.

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December 4, 2017 16:11
2 minute read.
THE OFRA SETTLEMENT is seen from the Amona outpost in the West Bank.

THE OFRA SETTLEMENT is seen from the Amona outpost in the West Bank.. (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)

The government must explain in writing by February 25, 2018, why it has not struck down the Settlement Regulations Law, which authorizes settler homes illegally built on private Palestinian property while offering to compensate the Palestinian landowners.

The High Court of Justice also said on Monday that it planned to hear the case before nine judges, the broadest possible legal panel, which expedites the proceedings, said representatives for both the plaintiffs and the defendants.

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The High Court extended its injunction freezing the law until a judgment is rendered on the controversial legislation approved by the Knesset in February.

The law marked the most significant potential change to the treatment of property in the West Bank over the last 40 years.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has argued that it is unconstitutional. He told the High Court in a written brief it was harmful and discriminatory toward the Palestinians.

In light of his position, the government has hired private attorney Harel Arnon to represent it before the court.
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In Monday’s judgment rendered by High Court President Esther Hayut, the government, the Knesset and the military commander for the West Bank were asked to explain why the Settlement Regulations Law should be “declared null and void, since it is unconstitutional.”

She asked a larger group of defendants, including Mandelblit, the Civil Administration and the Custodian of Abandoned Properties, to explain why it should be annulled and why it should be approved.

At issue is the fate of close to 4,000 illegal settler homes on private Palestinian property.

No legal avenue exists to authorize those structures, because the High Court has ruled since 1978 that private Palestinian property cannot be expropriated for civilian use.

Thirteen nongovernmental groups, including Peace Now, Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, petitioned the High Court against the law.

Among their contentions was the charge that the Knesset lacks jurisdiction over Area C of the West Bank, and the law runs counter to international laws that are supposed to govern the area.

Arnon has argued that the Knesset does have jurisdiction, and the concept of eminent domain can be applied to legalize the structures.

Mandelblit said the Settlements Regulations Law was too broad and blunt an instrument for carrying out such transfers, which could only be done in limited cases where the principles of proportionality and reasonableness were fulfilled.


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