The Israel Defense Forces has issued an expropriation order for land in the West Bank village of Ein Yabrud, so that settlers from the nearby Amona outpost can continue using a road that crosses the land.
The 6.4-dunam (slightly over an acre) plot is owned by Palestinians. The road, like Amona itself, was built without a permit.
Last summer, after the High Court of Justice heard at length a petition filed by the Yesh Din human rights organization on behalf of the landowners, part of the road was destroyed. A new access road was rebuilt along what had been a public road when the Jordanians controlled the West Bank, from 1948 to 1967.
But the new road was just four meters wide, and a sharp curve made it nearly impassable to buses. Last winter, settlers began widening the road without authorization, so that it again encroached on private Palestinian land.
The state said it would try to stop the illegal roadwork, and the cabinet secretary instructed a team of transportation experts to find a legal solution to the problem of access to Amona, itself an unauthorized outpost that was built illegally on private Palestinian land. The experts were unable to provide such a solution, given the absence of either land rights or a zoning plan in the relevant area.
That led to a decision to expropriate, for military use, the land on which the original access road was built. The order was secretly issued by GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon in May, but the Palestinians learned of it only in July.
Attorneys Michael Sfard and Shlomy Zachary of Yesh Din returned to the High Court. They claimed the expropriation order suffered from several legal flaws, above all the fact that the land would apparently be used for an access road to Amona. That would make the order ipso facto illegal, they wrote, “because an expropriation order is supposed to be issued only for vital and urgent security needs.”
The court’s ruling on this issue, as well as on the fate of most of the outpost’s houses, is still pending.
Though expropriation orders are supposed to be used only for security purposes, at one time, settlements were routinely built on land expropriated through such orders. But in 1979, the High Court ruled this practice illegal, and the state complied. That makes the expropriation order issued for Amona’s benefit extremely unusual.
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