Knesset OKs Stay of Land-grab Law Until High Court Ruling

Compromise suggested by attorney general freezes expropriations, but allows continued examination of the extent of settlement on private Palestinian land.

Minister Gilad Erdan and Naftali Bennett at Knesset plenum, during the vote on the land-grab law last month.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Knesset has informed the High Court of Justice that it accepts the attorney general’s proposal to suspend the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land in West Bank settlements until the court rules on petitions against the so-called Regularization Law.

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit proposed the arrangement on March 12.

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. Attorney Harel Arnon, representing the state in the case, did not respond to the proposal.

A few days after the law was passed, 17 Palestinian local governments in the territories as well as Palestinian land owners and the human-rights organizations Adalah, Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, filed two petitions against the law, which are being heard jointly.

The petitioners asked the High Court to issue a sweeping temporary injunction against the law, to prevent both expropriations and mapping of lands needed before implementing it, until the High Court would decide on the matter. However, the attorney general opposed this proposal and offered an alternative, by which work on clarifying the extent of settlement on private Palestinian lands would continue while expropriations would be frozen.

The Knesset informed the High Court on Sunday that it agreed to Mendelblit’s proposal. “There is no place for postponing the entry into effect of the man legislation of the Knesset before clarifying the sides’ claims,” the Knesset told the High Court in its response. Still, “The Knesset believes there is something to the proposed arrangement because of a balance of the various interests in the matter, including the need to respect the wish of the majority upon which the law was passed, because it is not an absolute freeze that will prevent meeting the timetable that the law set.”

Attorney Keren Dahari Ben-Nun wrote the letter on behalf of the Knesset.