Israel Admits to Top Court: We Paved Road on Private Palestinian Land

The Palestinian land owners noticed work on their land in 2015 and petitioned the High Court. In July, the state admitted it had instructed the lands taken out of the West Bank settlement construction plan

The road constructed on private Palestinian land
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Israel admitted to the High Court that it had paved a section of a road in the West Bank on private Palestinian land.

In a statement to the High Court of Justice, the State Prosecutor's Office wrote that the state mistakenly thought that it was paving the road, located in the South Hebron Hills, on state lands when it included them in the construction plan for the settlement of Shima.

In March 2015, the Samamra family noticed work on 11 of their 40 dunams of land and petitioned the High Court together with the nongovernmental organization, Rabbis for Human Rights.

According to the state, the Justice Ministry noted the error and ordered the Civil Administration later in 2015 to issue stop construction orders in the area, and that construction was indeed halted.

Shima - map
Shima settlement in the Hebron Hills, September 5, 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

On July 31 of this year, the state informed the High Court that it had erred and would take the area out of its construction plan. The state said that after a meeting at the Justice Ministry, headed by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, the Civil Administration ordered the plan to be amended.

In the statement to the court, the State Prosecutor's Office explained that there was no longer a need for the court to discuss the petition, given that "the lands were taken out of the plan and are not to be seen as state lands. The head of the Civil Administration has instructed that the plans that apply in the area be corrected."

According to the state's statement, the Civil Administration contacted the head of the Hebron Hills Regional Council and "asked him to submit an updated plan that would not include the marked areas." The state added that "in a conversation held by the head of the Civil Administration's Settlement Unit in the Infrastructure Division with the regional council's engineer, it was reported that the council had begun to amend the plan as stated."

The state explained that in 2015, the Civil Administration removed the area discussed in the High Court petition from the "blue line", redefining it as private Palestinian land rather than state land.

Between 1999 and 2015, the Civil Administration used a procedure known as “blue line,” under which it reviewed maps from the 1980s using digital tools that offered greater precision in order to redraw maps and determine where state lands existed in order to expand settlements into them. Under this procedure, the state could declare an area state land without informing Palestinians who might have asserted a claim to the land.

According to a security source, the state removed the land discussed in this High Court petition without any connection to it.

Yariv Mohar, a spokesperson for Rabbis for Human Rights, said: "The state acted like the 'hilltop youth' [a radical settler group]. You can't explain this away using the excuse of an innocent mistake, given that even after our warnings it took a long and embarrassing legal procedure to get them to do the obvious: check who actually owns the land."