Israeli Court Freezes West Bank 'Land Grab' Law

Expropriation law is subject of petitions by 17 Palestinian local governments, plus landowners and civil rights organizations

A file photo of an Israeli settlement near Nablus in the West Bank, 2015.
AFP

The High Court of Justice on Thursday issued a restraining order against implementing the so-called expropriation law, at the request of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.

Justice Neal Hendel ruled that the interim arrangement under which the state will not for now demolish illegal homes in the settlements but at the same time won’t expropriate Palestinian-owned land has judicial force.

The law is the subject of petitions filed by 17 Palestinian local governments in the occupied territories, as well as Palestinian landowners and the human rights organizations Adalah, Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

Mendelblit had approached the court earlier this month with a request to turn the interim arrangement into an official restraining order, until the court decides whether the law is constitutional or not.

The law, which the Knesset passed last month, permits the expropriation of private Palestinian land on which settlements were built without malice aforethought or with government agreement.

Mendelblit warned before its passage it would likely be struck down by the High Court. He refused to represent the state against the petitions that were filed.

Last week, Haaretz reported that a day before Mendelblit’s request, eight settlers filed a High Court petition demanding that the law be implemented. The settlers, who live in homes that the law could legalize retroactively, asked that the law be implemented, since there had been no restraining order issued against it, thus there was no legal reason not to implement it. That seems to be the reasoning behind Mendelblit’s request for a restraining order to be issued.

The Justice Ministry, however, said the request was submitted “given the approaching date set in the law for implementing it, since the interim arrangement doesn’t provide a remedy for it in the absence of a binding interim order.”