IDF weighs new tool to legalize settler outposts

“As winter arrives, the imminent demolition will leave 100 people, half of them children, without shelter,” Mishriqi-Assad said.

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November 23, 2017 17:54
4 minute read.
A Palestinian boy places a Palestinian flag on a tent in the West Bank village of Sussiya

A Palestinian boy places a Palestinian flag on a tent in the West Bank village of Sussiya. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria is weighing a new legal tool that would help authorize settler outposts.

It could be used in cases where the only other option is a government decision to declare that they are new settlements.

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Upon orders from the government’s upper political echelon, Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has already held two discussions on this issue in the last year.

The government is under international pressure not to legalize new settlements, so the only way to authorize an outpost is to declare it as a neighborhood of an existing settlement.

But the principle of “adjacent land,” means that only outposts close to existing settlements can be legalized in that way.

For those outposts too far away from a settlement, the only method for legalization is the creation of a new settlement.

Mandelblit this year has explored a possible reinterpretations or modification to the principle of “adjacent land” as it is applied in some cases in Judea and Samaria.

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“It is a fundamental planning principle that you do not plan a residential community in an area that is not adjacent to an already built up area,” said attorney Michael Sfard who represents left-wing groups such as Peace Now and Yesh Din in legal cases against outposts.

“If this principle [of adjacent property] is changed, some of the outposts that are remote from settlements could potentially be approved [legalized] as a neighborhood of the settlement,” Sfard said.

If the understanding of “adjacent land” is modified, then it is possible that it could strengthen the case for legalizing small illegal Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank.

Sfard said he did not believe it would be used that way.

But the state reported on Mandelblit’s meeting on modifying the principle of “adjacent land” in a response it issued to the High Court of Justice on Wednesday regarding the illegal Palestinian village of Sussiya.

“The attorney-general has told the government that there is no legal impediment to prevent the Higher Planning Council for Judea and Samaria from reexamining the standing and weight that should be given to the principle of adjacent land in Judea and Samaria,” the state said.

“As a result, the upper political echelon has instructed the Higher Planning Council to hold a discussion on this,” the state said.

It reported on the matter to the High Court in regard to Sussiya, because one of several impediments in legalizing Sussiya is its small size and the lack of available services.

Some 350 Palestinians live in Sussiya in some 100 structures of tents and shacks.

“This principle [of adjacent land] is relevant even for [Sussiya], since, as detailed in the preliminary response, the subject of the petition is not strictly linked to an existing Palestinian community,” the state said.

The Civil Administration wants to relocate the village next to the Palestinian town of Yatta, a move the village of Sussiya has opposed because it wants to be authorized at its current location near the Jewish settlement of Sussiya, in the South Hebron Hills.

The state told the court that no enforcement action would be taken against structures in Sussiya that were built before February 24, 2014, until such time as the issue of “adjacent land” was being debated.

It added that this did no obligate the state to authorize Sussiya.

But it said it would remove, within 15 days, structures erected between July 2012 and May 2014 in violation of a court order.

Attorney Quamar Mishriqi- Assad, co-director of Haqelel: In Defense of Human Rights, who is representing Sussiya said that at stake was the fate of 20 structures, that house some 100 people.

She added that the Civil Administration had erred in believing that the construction occurred in violation of a court order during those two years.

“The demolition of one-fifth of the village is an extreme step that will damage the most basic humanitarian needs and the very humanity of those involved, without it even having been proved that they have violated the law,” Mishriqi-Assad said.

“As winter arrives, the imminent demolition will leave 100 people, half of them children, without shelter,” Mishriqi-Assad said.

She warned that this was just the first step and that the IDF wanted to destroy the whole village.

“This is contrary to Israel’s obligations under international law. Israel is guided neither by law nor justice, but by the desire to evacuate the area,” Mishriqi-Assad.

In comparison the state has taken no action against the 184 illegal settlers building in the area of Sussiya, against which there are demolition orders.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has repeatedly said that he plans to raze Sussiya.

The village has gained international stature and Israel is under pressure not to demolish it.

Right-wing politicians have argued that the Palestinians live there as part of an overall plan to gain hold of Area C by creating facts on the ground.

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