Justice Ministry: Israel Can Sell Confiscated East Jerusalem Land

Statement issued last week in response to rights group's official request for clarification.

The recent reform of the Israel Lands Administration allowing sale of leased land to private companies or individuals includes confiscated land in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, says the Justice Ministry.

The statement was issued last week in response to an official request for clarification from Adalah, Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.

Hila Gilad Tenne, director of the ministry's human rights and international organizations department, wrote to the organization that Israel has the right to exercise its sovereignity over territories under jurisdiction, jurisprudence and administration. She noted that the amendment to the lands law passed in August 2009 was based on extensive consideration by a number of relevant authorities.

Adalah wrote to the ministry that selling assets in occupied territories constitutes, in fact, a complete and final confiscation from their original owners.

The organization reminded the ministry that this contravenes Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which defines extensive appropriation of property not justified by military necessity as a grave breach of the convention.

The organization also noted Article 46 in the annexes to the 1907 Hague Convention states private property in territory under military authority must be respected and cannot be confiscated.

Writing for Adalah, attorney Suhad Bishara asked the Justice Ministry to prevent the transfer of ownership rights on land confiscated from Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

She argued that for an occupying power to use land is only allowed under the laws of war for immediate military needs. She said the Israeli legislator is not empowered, under the laws of war, to legislate on occupied territory.