Gantz, Justice Minister Tell Staff to Find Way to Legalize Buildings on Palestinian Land

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Benny Gantz and Avi Nissenkorn in December, 2019.
Benny Gantz and Avi Nissenkorn in December, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn instructed their ministries on Friday to find ways to validate the status of illegally built Israeli structures in the West Bank, days after the High Court of Justice struck down a law that legalizes settlements partially constructed on privately owned Palestinian land.

Gantz and Nissenkorn said the ministries would focus on housing units for which permits were given but were later found to be built on privately owned Palestinian land. According to a source in the justice system, the first stage of this legal process would involve some 1,000 homes.

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The two ministers discussed the issue on Friday with Attorney General Avichai Mendeblit, Civil Administration chief Ghassan Alian and other officials. At the end of the meeting, Gantz and Nissenkorn said that they examined legal possibilities for validating the structures, including a legal concept dealing with the selling of property by someone who does not own it.

This concept is reflected in the text of an official order on government property in the West Bank, which states that "a deal made in good faith between the person in charge of the government property in the territories and another person, any property that the person in charge believed at the time of the deal to be government property" remains valid, even if it turns out that the land did not actually belong to the government.

The “Law for the Regularization of Settlement in Judea and Samaria,” struck down by the High Court this week, was approved in February 2017. It was meant to allow the use of privately-owned Palestinian land to build Israeli settlements and to legalize outposts and structures erected on such soil. It relates to 2,455 structures built illegally on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, including 1,285 homes or public institutions, according to figures from 2016. This includes 1,048 buildings declared illegal a few years after they were built, when it was discovered that the land belonged to Palestinians or that its owner was unknown.

The Peace Now organization said of the meeting: "We deserve a defense minister who works to advance a solution for the conflict and a justice minister who rehabilitates the battered judicial system that the previous government left behind. Instead of this, they are first taking care of the base – but it's Netanyahu's base."

Netael Bandel contributed reporting to this article. 

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