Imagine a law in Britain which is specifically designed to legalise squatting on other peoples’ land. Not only would this be impossible, in fact the opposite occurred under the last government. The actions of the homeless have increasingly been criminalised, even when they take over empty housing that rich people have decided to keep empty for reasons of making a profit.
|The settlement of Amona|
Jewish settlers have squatted in their thousands on private Palestinian land [i.e. land which the State has not confiscated under one pretext or another] to which they have no entitlement.
|Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a ceremony in Jerusalem, June 13, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)|
The Jewish settlers believe that god gave them the land, on the basis that their ancestors, completely mythical creatures, apparently lived there a few thousand years ago. Imagine if the whole world were ordered on this basis! In reality the settlers are doing no more than colonists have always done in places like Southern Africa. Using the Bible to justify their expropriation of the land of the indigenous people.
See also the excellent article by Gideon Levy Oh Merciful God, Show Some [Mercy] to Victims
See also the excellent article by Gideon Levy Oh Merciful God, Show Some [Mercy] to Victims
Israel to High Court: Law Seizing Palestinian Land Is Humane Response to 'Distress' of Thousands of Settlers
Private lawyer representing the state says expropriation of Palestinian lands in West Bank is constitutional under both Israeli and international law
Yotam Berger 22.08.2017 12:17 Updated: 12:18 PM
|The unauthorized outpost of Mitzpeh Kramim. Israel says the expropriation law would help residents there with construction. Michal Fattal|
The state added that the law is constitutional under Israeli law and also meets the requirements of international law.
|Amona settlers building|
Subject to specific provisions, the law allows Jewish settlers to remain in homes built on privately owned Palestinian land, even though it does not grant them ownership of the land. It also denies the Palestinian owners the right to claim the land or take possession of it “until there is a diplomatic resolution of the status of the territories.”
The state’s response was prepared by Harel Arnon, a private lawyer retained by the government after Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit refused to represent it, saying the legislation was not constitutional. Prior to its passage, he also tried to halt the legislative process.
Implementation of the law had been informally suspended following the legal challenge. However, at Mendelblit’s request, the court made the suspension official on Monday through a court order. This will remain in effect until the court makes its ruling.
|Bennett shakes hands with Zeev Elkin|
The law also provides a mechanism for compensating Palestinians whose lands are seized: A landowner can receive an annual usage payment of 125 percent of the land’s value as determined by an assessment committee, or an alternate plot of land if this is possible – whichever the Palestinian landowner chooses.
The state said the law addressed “a reality in which the owners of the land are not benefiting from their rights, particularly a reality that time after time has been polarizing and tearing Israeli society apart, and severely harming public trust and institutions of government.”
The state called the current situation “a national problem.”
It also noted a number of cases in which it said residents would benefit from the law if it is found constitutional, including construction at the unauthorized outpost of Mitzpeh Kramim and a number of buildings in the settlement of Ofra.
|Demolition of Amona|
The state’s response included data from the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank, detailing the numbers of orders issued against illegal settlement construction on privately owned Palestinian land.
It said that between 2012 and 2016, orders were issued against 285 illegally built structures; between 2007 and 2011, orders were issued in connection with 251 structures; and between 2002 and 2006, more than 450 orders were issued. Between 1992 and 1996, however, the figure was only 20.
In conclusion, the state said that although there are many issues that prompted the legal challenges to the law requiring thorough consideration, ultimately the petitioners are making “much ado about nothing.”
The law, the state said, does not run counter to any precedent or legal principle, and instead is meant to deal with a unique and complex situation that at times has led to demolitions that benefited no one – a situation that places hundreds of families under “a cloud of uncertainty.”
In response, the organizations Yesh Din, Peace Now and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel – which are some of the petitioners in the case – responded: “The State of Israel, in its response today, is trying to present the land expropriation law as addressing a national problem, when in practice it involves continued government support for a criminal enterprise that has continued for decades.
“The government is minimizing the continuing harm to the rights of the Palestinian landowners, and at the same time is trying to present the Israeli citizens who are taking part in the looting of West Bank Palestinians as people who have been harmed and who require ‘compensation’ for their part in the looting,” they added. “We hope the court rejects the state’s arguments out of hand, strikes down this unconstitutional and immoral law, and sends a loud and clear message: No more.”
Responding to petition from left-wing NGOs, government insists preventing additional outpost evacuations is in Israel’s ‘national interest’In its official response Thursday to a High Court of Justice petition against a new law to legalize wildcat West Bank outposts, the state argued that the legislation, if implemented, would benefit Palestinians.
Private attorney Harel Arnon crafted the response on behalf of the state after Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit refused to defend the legislation. In his 156-page response, Arnon wrote that the law will ensure just compensation for Palestinian landowners who would otherwise receive the death penalty from the Palestinian Authority for selling their land to Jews.
“The law even improves the situation of landowners, who will receive significant compensation for the use of their land — an option denied to them without the law,” Arnon wrote on behalf of the state.
The response also rejected claims that the legislation violates Israeli and international law. Arnon argued that it was in Israel’s “national interest” to prevent the evacuation of the some 4,000 homes that the law would legalize retroactively.
“The Regulation Law balances the obligation of the government towards thousands of citizens who have relied in good faith on government action and a minor infringement of property rights, with increased compensation to the landowners,” the state concluded.
Passed over six months ago, the Regulation Law allows the Israeli government to expropriate private Palestinian land where illegal outpost homes have been built ex post facto, provided that the outposts were “built in good faith” or had government support.
In return, the legislation states, the Palestinian landowners will be compensated financially or with other land.
The passage of the bill, originally meant to save the since-razed outpost of Amona, was roundly condemned by a slew of activists and political figures in Israel and abroad.
Its legality was immediately challenged in a High Court petition from left-wing NGOs Peace Now, Yesh Din and ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel) on behalf of 27 Palestinian local councils and 13 Israeli civil society organizations.
Regardless of the petition, the law was supposed to have gone into effect last week. However, at the behest of Mandelblit, the High Court ruled Thursday to freeze its implementation for two months.
Consequently, no additional land will be expropriated even if it fits the above conditions. At the same time, outposts found to have been built in good faith or with government backing will not be demolished until a final decision is made.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked echoed state’s response to the High Court petition in a Monday statement praising the legislation. “The law offers a counter to the racism of the Palestinian Authority, which places the death penalty on those who sell land to Jews,” she said
But the left-wing NGOs behind the High Court challenge said the government’s response was an attempt to cover for a “criminal enterprise.”
“The Israeli government’s response seeks to present the expropriation law as a solution for a national problem, while the real problem is the state’s involvement in illegal settlement activity for the past five decades,” they said in a joint statement.
The court is now set to hear a response from the Knesset’s legal adviser in mid-September, followed by what is expected to be an unprecedented challenge to the law from Mandelblit himself in October.
Mandelblit also cautioned that the legislation openly curtailed property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank in a way that contravenes the protections granted to occupied populations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
When the Knesset passed the law anyway, Mandelblit officially notified the High Court that he would not defend the legislation if it was challenged. Arnon was subsequently chosen to represent the state in Mandeblit’s stead.
In May, Haaretz revealed that Arnon’s own home in the Elazar settlement is being built illegally on land that had been designated strictly for military purposes.
These illegal structures could be legalized under Israel's contentious 'land-grab' law, whose validity is now being determined by the High Court of Justice
Yotam Berger Aug 23, 2017 9:01 AM
Settlers build in the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona, since evacuated by Israel. Emil Salman
There are 3,455 residential and public buildings built on private Palestinian lands in the West Bank, according to Civil Administration data. These illegal structures could be legalized under the expropriation law, whose validity is now being determined by the High Court of Justice in response to Palestinian petitions against the law.
Extensive details on the scope of illegal structures on private Palestinian land were revealed in an appendix to the state’s response to the petitions.
The law allows the state to expropriate Palestinian lands on which settlements or outposts were built “in good faith or at the state’s instruction,” and deny its owners the right to use those lands until there is a diplomatic resolution of the status of the territories. The measure provides a mechanism for compensating Palestinians whose lands are seized.
According to the Civil Administration, the 3,455 structures fall into three categories. The first includes 1,285 structures that are clearly private land. These are structures built during the past 20 years on land that was never defined as state land and all have had demolition orders issued against them. The second category comprises 1,048 structures that were built on private land that had earlier been erroneously designated state land. The third category contains 1,122 structures that were built more than 20 years ago, during a period when planning laws were barely enforced in the West Bank.
The structures on clearly private land are within the jurisdictions or adjacent to the jurisdictions of 74 settlements throughout the West Bank. Of these, 874 are in outposts – small, illegal satellites of larger settlements. One example would be the Tzur Shalem outpost near Karmei Tzur in the Etzion Bloc. Amona, which was evacuated in February, was another example. The other 411 are individual structures that were built on enclaves of private land within various legal settlements that were planned in accordance with Israeli law.
Israel just passed the land-grabbing law. What is it all about?
Of the 1,285 structures built on clearly private land, 543 are built on what the Civil Administration calls “regularized private land,” meaning lands whose owners are known and whose ownership is formally registered. The other homes are built on lands recognized as private after aerial photos proved that these lands had been cultivated over the years, but there is no definitive registry of who was cultivating them. Cultivating land establishes ownership in the West Bank in accordance with the Ottoman-era laws that still prevail there.
According to Dr. Ronit Levine-Schnur, an expert on property rights at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, “Regularized land is land for which there is clear land registration, whether performed under Jordanian rule or during the Mandate period. The land at Amona was regularized land. In these cases there is no doubt about the rights because the registration invalidates any competing right and there’s no such thing as a statue of limitations on registered land. Non-regularized land can be unregistered but known to be privately owned, or registered but in a registry that doesn’t have the same strong evidentiary power.”
The second category includes structures built on lands that had been erroneously declared state land. Because the original declarations of state land were based on obsolete surveying technology, when the technology improved, errors were discovered and lands were removed from the state land listings. As a result, 1,048 structures suddenly found themselves outside the “blue line” that demarcates state lands. Of these, 799 structures are in areas that had a valid master plan and were thus planned and built based on the earlier declarations. Of this subcategory, 303 buildings are in the ultra-Orthodox city of Modi’in Ilit.
The third category of structures were built on private lands, with the Civil Administration admitting that in most cases the owners of the lands are known. These structures, however, were built more than 20 years ago, during a period when there was almost no oversight regarding construction on private Palestinian land. Until 1998, the policy was to conduct virtually no enforcement actions in the settlements. Of these 1,122 structures, 480 are in Ofra, 193 are in Beit El, and 146 are in Elon Moreh. Dozens of other such homes were built in Eli, Shavei Shomron, Psagot, Ma’aleh Michmash and Hermesh.
All told, of the 3,455 structures built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, 1,576 (around 45 percent) were built on regularized private land and the rest on private land whose owners are not confirmed. This number includes residential structures and public buildings, mobile and permanent alike, but doesn’t include other types of structures like storage rooms, fences, roads and infrastructures that were built on private land.
The Civil Administration data is similar to the numbers that appeared in a recent Peace Now report, which estimated that the expropriation law could legalize up to 4,000 housing units in the settlements and outposts. Outposts that could be legalized included Avigail, Ahuzat Shalhevet, Beit El East, Bat Ayin West, Jebal Artis, Hill 725, Givat Assaf and more. The report noted that numerous homes could also be legalized in Oranit, Asfar, Beit El, Givat Ze’ev, Gitit, Har Gilo and others.
The Civil Administration appendix also details how many demolition orders were issued against illegal structures in the settlements. Between 2012 and 2016 there were 285 orders issued; between 2007 and 2011 – 251; from 2002 to 2006 – 451; between 1997 and 2001 – 278 orders and between 1992 and 1996 only 20 demolition orders were issued.