Private Palestinian Land Can Be Taken for Public Use in Settlements, Israeli Attorney General Says

Mendelblit shifts position based on recent Supreme Court ruling stating that expropriation is acceptable since Israeli settlers are also part of West Bank's ‘local population’

Privately owned Palestinian land may be expropriated for public purposes in West Bank Jewish settlements, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit asserted in a legal opinion released Wednesday.
The opinion came in light of a court decision several weeks ago by Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran, who ruled that land could be seized for the benefit of Israeli settlers because they, too, were part of West Bank’s “local population.” According to Mendelblit, privately owned Palestinian land can now be expropriated for public purposes in settlements, although such steps still must comply with standards of reasonableness and proportionality as well as other laws, including planning laws.


The attorney general’s legal opinion was issued at the request of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and is connected to a request to legalize an access path to the illegal Jewish outpost of Harsha, located near Ramallah in the West Bank. A portion of the path sits on privately owned Palestinian land, and the absence of legal access to Harsha is the main reason that the outpost had not yet been authorized.
In the wake of Joubran’s ruling, Shaked asked the attorney general to reconsider his position on the expropriation of land at the outpost. In the past, Mendelblit opposed the expropriation of private Palestinian land at Harsha. In Wednesday’s legal opinion, Mendelblit shifted his position to be in line with Joubran’s ruling.
In February, the attorney general had said that recommending to authorize the road would present legal difficulties because it would only in use by the West Bank’s Jewish population. On Wednesday, he wrote in his opinion that although the full implications of Joubran’s ruling would require further study, it would now be possible to legalize the access road leading to the outpost.
“The full significance of [Joubran’s] ruling will be examined by the attorney general in the near future in a [formal] legal opinion,” Mendelblit wrote. At the same time, he wrote, there are no longer legal grounds that prevent, in principle, the legalization of the access road for public purposes through expropriation.
That being said, Mendelblit cautioned, his legal opinion only meant that there was general legal authority to expropriate land for purposes such as an access road to Harsha. Any actual expropriation must still be considered based on the principles of proportionality and reasonableness, he wrote, and these issues that must still be examined. In addition, any decision to legalize such an access path is not exempt from planning requirements based on local law and “the rules of public law.”
Joubran’s ruling several weeks ago related to an effort to head off the evacuation of the West Bank Amona outpost at the beginning of the year. At the time, the court ruled against the plan, which involved abandoned Palestinian land, and the evacuation took place in February 2017. However, in the recent ruling, Joubran expanded on his broad decision to recognize the authority of the West Bank military commander “to act for the benefit of the civilian interests of the Israeli residents” of the West Bank.
“Israelis are included among the civilian population of the area and therefore the military commander’s duty also extends to them,” Joubran wrote, citing a prior ruling by former Justice Aharon Barak, who noted: “Israelis in the area have the right to life, dignity, property and all the rights enjoyed by anyone in Israel.”
In response to Mendelblit’s legal opinion released on Wednesday, Justice Minister Shaked, who is part of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party, said: “The attorney general has issued a legal opinion permitting the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land to permit an access road to [Harsha] that permits the regulation [legalization] of the entire [settlement]. The justice minister welcomes the decision, which is another step in exercising the rights of the hundreds of thousands of [Israeli] residents of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], and she will continue to advance a reexamination of prior legal positions relating to the regulation of construction in Judea and Samaria.”

Yotam Berger

Haaretz Correspondent

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Private Palestinian Land Can Be Taken for Public Use in Settlements Israeli Attorney General Says

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Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police




The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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