For First Time, Israel Compensating Palestinians Over Settlers' Land Grab

State agrees to pay six Palestinians $87,500 after settlers seized their land to build the unauthorized Amona outpost.

A file photo of the Amona outpost.
Olivier Fitoussi

In an unprecedented step, the state will pay 300,000 shekels ($87,500) in compensation to Palestinians who own land upon which the unauthorized West Bank outpost of Amona was built.

The Palestinian land owners will be compensated for the lost revenues from their fields for the first time since reaching a compromise agreement with the state.

The Palestinians had filed a civil suit against the state for not enforcing the law after the settlers took over their land for the unauthorized building at Amona. It is a precedent setting agreement.

In 2008, seven Palestinian land owners filed a civil suit against the state with the help of the Yesh Din legal office. The Palestinians claimed the state was negligent in not removing the settlers from the Amona outpost — and even invested state funds in constructing it — and in doing so allowed the trespassers to take control of their land. The plaintiffs sued only for their lost income — and not for the actual takeover of their property. At the same time the case was being heard, a separate petition was filed with the High Court of Justice asking for Amona to be evacuated — and this case is still in court.

After the civil suit was filed, the state filed a third-party suit against the settlers at Amona, claiming they were the ones who needed to compensate the Palestinian landowners.

The compromise was signed with six of the 10 landowners. In addition to the 300,000 shekels, if all the buildings built on their plots of land are not evacuated by the end of 2015, the state will pay another 48,000 shekels to the plaintiffs.

The landowners said they plan on establishing a fund with the money to finance legal support for Palestinians whose lands have been taken over by Israelis.

In the compromise agreement, the plaintiffs continue to insist on their demand that the entire outpost be evacuated, as was requested in the petition to the High Court of Justice. The state is scheduled to notify the court within 30 days if it will continue its suit against Amona, in which it is demanding the settlement pay the state back for the compensation paid to the Palestinian landowners.

The state admits in the compromise that the plaintiffs have “land rights” and the land is privately owned and registered. In addition, the state admitted that unauthorized building was done on some of the land without proper permits. The state further admits that government funds were used to build infrastructure for Amona, and that despite the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria’s supervision, most of the illegal construction on these plots was never removed — which prevented the plaintiffs from accessing their lands.