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Ruling: Settlements built on Palestinian-owned land can be legalized

Jerusalem District Court accepts argument from residents of the Mitzpe Kramim outpost that government allocation of disputed land was done in good faith • Palestinians petitioned High Court in 2011, arguing the outpost’s land was privately owned.

View of the West Bank settlement of Havat Gilad, Jan. 10, 2018. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
View of the West Bank settlement of Havat Gilad, Jan. 10, 2018. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

Twenty years after it was founded, the outpost of Mitzpe Kramim can be legalized, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Tuesday in a precedent-setting decision.

The outpost, on a ridge in the Binyamin region overlooking the Jordan River, was built on state land with the approval of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and then-GOC Central Command Moshe Ya’alon. Mitzpe Kramim’s zoning permit was validated by the Civil Administration, allowing residents to obtain permits from local authorities to build their homes legally and even to qualify for mortgages.

In 2011, a number of Palestinians petitioned the High Court of Justice, arguing that the outpost had been illegally constructed on their privately owned land. In 2013, the Mitzpe Kramim settlers filed a counter-petition, arguing that the land had been allocated by the government for their use.

In July, after the government laid out its arguments, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said the outpost must be legalized under the principle of “market regulation,” a clause in an existing statute that allows the government to retroactively legalize Israeli settlements built on Palestinian-owned land if the land was purchased in good faith.

Judge Arnon Darel accepted the settlers’ argument that the settlement’s status could be legalized if it was proved that the land had been acquired in error because the IDF’s Civil Administration thought it was part of a land seizure order.

In his ruling, Darel said that Mitzpe Kramim had been “built in good faith, on land allocated by the government,” and so the government had a responsibility to protect the rights of the Jews living there and compensate those Palestinians who could prove ownership of the land.

In response to the ruling, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked put forth that “the court has clearly said that anyone who settles with the government’s permission and in good faith, will not be evacuated from his home.

“The court should not take a side in the political dispute between right and left. That decision must be made at the polls. Through intensive, joint work, we’ve caused a change in the policy. … Now that change is trickling down to district court rulings as well.”

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