Bill proposes compensating W. Bank Palestinian land owners

Likud MK Yariv Levin says his bill will ‘break the cycle of house destruction’; Rights groups call proposal ‘racist’ and ‘unconstitutional.

Sabastia, West Bank Palestinian village_311 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Sabastia, West Bank Palestinian village_311
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
MK Yariv Levin (Likud) plans to propose a bill that would compensate West Bank Palestinian land owners for their property in an effort to stop the state demolishing settler homes built on that land.
The bill comes as an effort to stop the pending demolition this year of an unauthorized neighborhood in the Beit El settlement of Ulpana and homes on two outposts, Migron and Givat Assaf. It is part of an effort by Likud lawmakers to find an alternative solution to unauthorized Jewish structures on private Palestinian property in the West Bank.
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“The current situation in Judea and Samaria is intolerable,” Levin told The Jerusalem Post. “The judiciary is being used as a tool to promote the extreme Left’s political goals, such as harming settlers.”
Levin said, “We cannot accept a policy in which we don’t build, illegal Arab construction is not dealt with, and Jewish homes are destroyed. The prime minister does not have a mandate from the public or Likud MKs for this behavior,” he told the Post on Sunday.
Levin plans to propose a bill that will allow the state to compensate Palestinians with claims to land on which settler homes have been built. The complainants will receive funds or alternative land, and will not be able to demand that homes be destroyed.
“There is plenty of illegal Arab construction, but in those cases the courts do not enforce the law, because they say that it’s not a priority, or that it’s a political and diplomatic matter,” the Likud MK explained. “Yet, when it comes to settlers, the courts are very involved. This is a cynical use of the judicial system.”
Levin said his bill will “break the cycle of house destruction. This removes the government’s excuse by solving the problem of court destruction orders.”
“The government must stop hiding behind court rulings as if they were inarguable, given by God at Mount Sinai,” the Likud MK added. “There should be preference for Jewish settlement, or at least equality.”
Levin said that, in his opinion, “any method is acceptable, as long as the result is additional construction [in the West Bank].”
“If my bill is passed, we will be able to see who stands behind his ideology when it is tested, and who really wants to govern without being dragged behind judges,” Levin concluded.
Attorney Michael Sfard, who works for both Yesh Din and Peace Now in representing West Bank Palestinian land owners, slammed the proposed bill as “racist” and said that it is unconstitutional, because it violates Israel’s Basic Laws.
Sfard noted that Levin’s bill apparently is restricted to Palestinian landowners and private Palestinian land in the West Bank, and that Palestinians could not use the law to claim Jewish-owned private land.
According to Sfard, the proposed bill would constitute a violation of property rights and the right to freedom of expression, two of the Israeli legal system’s basic values.
Those values are enshrined in the Basic Laws: Human Dignity and Liberty, which states that “there shall be no violation of the property of a person.”
Notably, Section 8 of the same Basic Law also contains a “limiting clause” restricting the Knesset from legislating laws that contradict it, which makes Levin’s proposed bill potentially problematic.
If the Knesset passes the bill, and Levin’s proposals become law, Sfard says that rights groups are therefore likely to petition the High Court of Justice to annul it.
Sfard also noted that the Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, is currently debating such a petition against the Nakba Law, which argues that the law violates constitutional rights enshrined in the Basic Laws.
Attorney Limor Yehuda, director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel’s Human Rights in the Occupied Territories department, said that apart from potentially violating the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, Levin’s proposed bill is problematic because according to international law, the West Bank is considered occupied territory over which Israel has no authority.
The proposed bill amounts to confiscation of lands in occupied territory, Yehuda argues, an act that is illegal under international law.
However, Israel’s position is that the Fourth Geneva Convention, the basis for the argument of some members of the international community as to the illegality of Israel’s settlements, is not applicable in Judea and Samaria.
Instead, the High Court of Justice has ruled that, among other criteria, settlements cannot be built on private Palestinian land but only on public land following an investigation to confirm that no private rights to the land exist; or on land purchased by Israelis and recorded in the Land Register.