Editorial

Justice, Not Compromise

Instead of trying to legitimize state and settlers crimes and suggest unjust compromises, the High Court should order Israel to return lands to Palestinians

FILE PHOTO: Palestinian Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat holds a map as he speaks to media about the Israeli plan to appropriate land, in Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho, January 20, 2016.
FILE PHOTO: Palestinian Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat holds a map as he speaks to media about the Israeli plan to appropriate land, in Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho, January 20, 2016 AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

Time and again, with the notable assistance of the High Court of Justice, the state of Israel breaks its own record of legal flexibility in its attempts to legalize the dispossession of the Palestinians from their land. In a ruling handed down on July 10, Justices Esther Hayut, Isaac Amit and Menachem Mazuz instructed Palestinian landowners to negotiate a monetary settlement with the state – as well as with the settlers who are working their land and was expropriated by a military order going back to 1967. The chances of achieving a compromise are nil, because consent in Palestinian society to compensation from Jews for land is considered major treason. Should the parties reach a settlement, it would be exceptional, allowing settlers to continue working Palestinian land illegally in exchange for monetary compensation.

In 2013, Chaim Levinson reported in Haaretz that more than 5,000 dunams (1,250 acres) of private Palestinian land in an area confined between the security fence west of the Jordan River and the actual border with Jordan, had been given since the 1980s to the Jordan Valley settlers to raise dates, despite the fact that the land was declared a closed military zone in 1967. In July 1987, the head of the IDF Central Command at the time, Maj. Gen. Amram Mitzna, banned Palestinians from entering the area. “There is no doubt that from a security perspective it is inconceivable to allow access to the land to anyone who is not in the security forces or who is not an armed army veteran,” Mitzna wrote.

Even after the Oslo Accords and the peace agreement with Jordan, the situation on the Jordanian border and the matter of the IDF passage permits was not reevaluated. That’s the way the army works to this day, according to criteria set by Mitzna. Thai farm workers employed by the settlers are allowed to cross the fence, while Palestinian laborers are not. When the original landowners became aware that they were denied access to the area but Jews were allowed, and that the land was being cultivated, they petitioned the court. The Palestinians claim that the fact that Jews are allowed access to the land proves that there is no point in continuing to claim that it is a closed military zone. They are asking the court “to restore their right of possession of the landand to go back to using it as farmland.”

It has emerged (in reports by the Civil Administration, Peace Now and Talia Sasson) over time that a lot of the settlements are situated on private land, contrary to a High Court ruling from 1979 (in which the rights of the state were very limited as to expropriation of private Palestinian land), constituting a major means of Palestinian dispossession. Instead of trying to legitimize the crimes of the state and the settlers and suggest unjust compromises to the Palestinians that they cannot accept, the High Court should instruct the state to return the lands to their legal owners and prohibit the settlers from continuing to work lands that do not belong to them.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.