Unprecedented Israeli Approval to Legitimize Settlements on Looted Lands

The Israeli government’s representative to the Supreme Court in West Jerusalem announced that concerned authorities intend to retroactively legalize structures built in part on private Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Alei Zahav, northwest Ramallah.

Judicial sources said Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, who previously opposed the move, finally approved an unprecedented rule to grant legitimacy to these buildings in the settlement even though they were constructed without the required permits.

According to the legal mechanism approved in December, it is permissible to retroactively authorize illegal construction on private Palestinian land if the land was allotted “in good faith,” meaning if the state erroneously believed that it was state land when it allotted it.

A Civil Administration team is now using new technology to correct the line, known as the “blue line,” retroactively, claiming that some areas that were thought to have been state lands were actually never seized by the state.

The land on which construction took place in Alei Zahav was considered state land, according to the old maps.

The Civil Administration team claimed in 2016 that land on which some buildings were built was actually private Palestinian territory.

Settlers from Alei Zahav at the time filed a lawsuit against the Harei Zahav contractors, Defense Ministry and World Zionist Organization for acquiring land on which construction was illegal.

However, in December Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government announced that it would try to retroactively legitimize these plots, using the legal interpretation of the clause.

The court allowed the state to begin the process, in the meantime freezing discussions of the settlers’ lawsuit.

After the West Bank was occupied in 1967, Israel used now-obsolete surveying technology to declare certain areas as state land, but these plots were not always marked accurately on maps.

“Even without making use of the vilified expropriation law, the state still finds ways and uses other routes to attain the same goal, giving its legal imprimatur to robbery of land, with residents who are protected under international law,” said Attorney Alaa Mahajna, who represents Palestinians ownership over the disputed area.

He referred to the “land expropriation law,” which passed in 2017 and allows the state to expropriate Palestinian land on which settlements or outposts were built in good faith or at the state’s instruction.

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