Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev on Sunday visited Amona Hill, where two mobile homes were illegally placed this month on private Palestinian land that Israel had designated a closed military area, and said the land had been purchased by Jews.
“This area was bought with Jews’ money,” said Regev. “I don’t understand why people who bought land to farm can’t realize their property rights.”
Purchase claims made by settlers have yet to be examined, however, and similar claims made in the past were found to be mistaken and based on forged documents.
“All the purchase documents were brought to the relevant authorities,” added Regev. “There’s no reason that people who bought a piece of land can’t use it. That’s crazy.”
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Regev stood at the end of the hill and made it clear that she wouldn’t enter the area designated as closed by the military. “I’m asking the attorney general and the justice minister why we’re dragging our feet,” she said. “They didn’t invade someone else’s land.”
Regev’s remarks relate to settlers’ claims that they had purchased a 40-dunam (10 acre) plot from Palestinian owners. The settlers submitted the purchase documents to the Civil Administration but the documents have yet to be checked. The lot in question is jointly owned by several different Palestinians, which means every single one of them would have to consent to the purchase for it to be legal. It’s not clear which, if any, of these Palestinians signed the sale document. In the end, the land was designated military land, is zoned for agriculture and has no building permits.
The Binyamin Regional Council didn’t await the administration’s decision before moving two prefab homes into Amona and providing basic infrastructure such as water tankers.
Regev added that she “respects the remarks of the attorney general,” referring to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s censure of the placement of the structures. Last week, Mendelblit criticized the presence of MK Betzalel Smotrich and the heads of the Binyamin and Samaria Regional Councils at the site and their support for the trespass. “Breaking the law with the support of public figures, like placing caravans on privately-owned lands, can’t be a source of pride,” Mendelblit said.
The outpost, built on private Palestinian land and never authorized by the Israeli authorities, was ordered evacuated by the High Court of Justice in 2014, but dates for the eviction were pushed back until a final date was set for February 2017. The residents got new homes built for them at state expense in the settlement of Amichai.
Following Amona’s evacuation, a closed-military-zone decree prevented Palestinians from entering the area. Such decrees theoretically apply to Israelis as well, but they have been enforced only against Palestinians.