Revealed: Nearly 3,500 settlement homes built on private Palestinian land
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
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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.
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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.