Israel's Top Court Orders Evacuation of Illegal West Bank Outpost

In its ruling, High Court approves expropriation of Palestinian lands in principle, but not in cases where state is found not to have acted in good faith

Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel
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Mitzpeh Kramim, an outpost in the West Bank, in 2018.
Mitzpeh Kramim, an outpost in the West Bank, in 2018.Credit: AFP
Netael Bandel
Netael Bandel

Israel's High Court of Justice ordered on Thursday the evacuation of an illegal Jewish outpost in the West Bank.

The court's ruling applies to 50 homes in the Mitzpeh Kramim outpost, but additional 10 structures are also expected to be expropriated.

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The total number of houses in Mitzpeh Kramim slated for eviction is double the number of homes demolished during the evacuation of the illegal Amona outpost in 2017.    

In its ruling, the court made a first-time reference to the regulation allowing for the expropriation of Palestinian lands so long as such is made in good faith, with no knowledge that the land did not belong to Israel. In principle, the court has approved this regulation, however, it added that it does not apply to Mitzpeh Kramim since the state is not acting in a bona fide manner.

The justices said that the person in charge of the government property "closed their eyes to the numerous warning signs over the years."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he "regrets" the ruling, adding he will do all he can "to keep the residents in place, and we are convinced that we will succeed in this."

Approving the regulation could help the state legalize some 1,000 housing units in the settlements.

The outpost residents filed a lawsuit with the Jerusalem District Court, arguing that the land where the outpost was built was allocated for the Settlement Division in accordance with the law.  

The official order on state property in the West Bank says that "a deal made in good faith between the person in charge of the government property in the territories and another person will remain valid, even if it transpires that the land did not actually belong to the government."

The High Court mentioned several conditions for evacuating the outpost. "Evacuation of the homes [in the outpost] will be carried out only once the tenants will be provided, within 36 months, a proper and worthy solution – allocating state land and erecting new structures to house those evicted, or moving the existing structures to a different land," the court said.

In 2011, Palestinians residing in the West Bank petitioned the High Court, claiming they are the owners of two of the plots where homes were erected as part of the Mitzpeh Kramin outpost. As a result, the Civil Administration admitted that the land where the outpost was established is not state property, and it should not have been allocated for the building of settlements.   

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