Israeli: Court Recognizes Town Settlement On Privately Owned Palestinian Land
The town like settlement of Mitzpe Kramim was established in the late 1990s, on land owned by Palestinians, whose title deeds had been recognized by Israeli authorities. The settlement is close to Ramallah and is at the center of a new controversy surrounding the legality of such settlements:
The District Court today clearly stated that whoever settled [the land] with the state’s approval and in good faith, would not be evacuated. The injustice done in the evacuations of the Amona and Netiv Ha’avot [outposts] should not be repeated.
Those words were from Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked after the Jerusalem district court found the settlement to be legal and created with the consent of Israeli authorities. The ruling stated the settlers built the town ‘in good faith’ without knowing the land was privately owned. Such a rationale would typically require a vacating of the territory, not an excuse for the settlers to remain — violating Palestinian property rights.
The settlers of Mitzpe Kramim first petitioned the district court in 2013 to recognize their claim to the land in lieu of Palestinian property owners pursuing eviction through the legal process.
Several dozen families live in the town; if the ruling survives appeal, it will create a precedent for legal recognition of settlements built on Palestinian land. “[The ruling shows]the property rights of Palestinians aren’t equal to those of Jews and that the government is no longer obliged to respect private property,” said MP Michal Rozin, a member of the left-wing opposition party Meretz.
Aside from the United States, the international community has seen Israeli town settlements within the West Bank as illegal, and one of the main obstacles in the way of a long-awaited peace agreement. Since 1967, right-wing Israeli governments have championed Israeli settlements being built in the West Bank, creating a smaller living space for Palestinians.
Within the previous weeks, the Knesset approved construction for an additional 1,000 homes in the occupied West Bank where over 500,00 settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live. However, the future of these homes is uncertain.
Israel’s Peace Now organization, which opposes Jewish settlement on occupied land, stated the appeal would ultimately be up to the Supreme Court. The court has typically upheld original property rights in similar cases, leading to the forced evacuation of settlement towns.
The Israeli Supreme Court is also currently reviewing a 2017 law which enabled the retroaction legalization of 4,000 settler homes built on privately-owned Palestinian land.