The High Court of Justice and the state, including Attorney General Mordechai Mandelblit, have until recently held that private Palestinian property cannot be seized for the public good of settlers. This may change soon, as land seizure laws may change so that private Palestinian property in Area C of the West Bank could be expropriated for public use by Israelis, Attorney-General Mordechai Mandelblit indicated in a legal opinion released by his office on November 15.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government had held that private Palestinian property could not be used for settler construction. The Knesset, Israeli government’s legislative branch, challenged that assumption in February when it passed the Settlements Regulation Law, which retroactively legalizes illegal settler homes on private Palestinian property in exchange for monetary compensation.
13 NGOs have petitioned the High Court of Justice against the law.
The government hired private attorney Harel Arnon to present its position to the court. He argued that the process of eminent domain could be used to seize private Palestinian property for the public good of the settlers, because they were considered to be the “local population.” Attorney General Mandelblit said there is room to make use of that understanding with regard to the construction of an access road on private Palestinian property for the West Bank outpost of Harsha, which the government plans to authorize. The outpost, built in 1995, is considered to be on state land, but the only possible route for an access road involves a section of private Palestinian property. He added that this interpretation appeared in a limited way to be applicable, but at this point, only for this road.
“This is a perfect example of a bureaucracy of robbery,” said attorney Michael Sfard who represented Left-wing group Peace Now in an High Court of Justice petition against the Harsha outpost.
“The AG’s report [opinion] paves the ways to the commission of grave breaches of international law on a massive scale. It is disappointing to see how anorectic is the opinion in its reasoning. No reference to the guiding principles the international community has adopted with regards to the nature of a regime of occupation; no consideration of the human rights of the occupied, unrepresented civilians who are the victims of the opinion. No ideals, no compassion,” Sfard said.