Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit on Wednesday authorized the confiscation of private Palestinian land for the needs of West Bank settlers. His move followed Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s request regarding the paving of a road to the illegal outpost Harasha, without which it would be impossible to “legitimize” it.
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His opinion was ostensibly based on the ruling of retired Supreme Court Justice Salim Joubran about Amona. Joubran ruled that the military commander in the West Bank must also see to the settlers’ needs, as they number among the region’s residents. Joubran cited former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak’s ruling that “Israelis in the area are entitled to life, dignity, property and the rest of the rights enjoyed by anyone in Israel.”
With all the problems that these rulings raise, the assumption that Mendelblit is implementing Joubran’s verdict is groundless. Joubran had stressed that the need to protect the settlers cannot blur the Palestinians’ special status of a “protected” population under international law, and that the military commander must be careful not to take any move to infringe on their rights in favor of the occupying state’s residents.
Mendelblit and Shaked clearly chose to ignore these points. They are also throwing sand in the public’s eyes, because the court verdict didn’t deal with expropriating land for settlements’ needs at all and didn’t rule that such an act was legal.
Mendelblit’s opinion can now be expected to serve the settlers’ insatiable appetite for private Palestinian land. However, in the legal whitewashing process, the officials involved omitted, as usual, the issue of the settlements’ legality. According to international law all the West Bank settlements are illegal. So Mendelblit cannot legitimize stealing Palestinian land in favor of any settlement in the name of “public needs,” because the public for whom his opinion is intended stole the land it is dwelling on.
Israel is acting like a criminal organization that operates according to its own laws and is convinced it can be seen as a legal body.
Mendelblit adorned his opinion with a series of vague qualifications like “feasibility” and “proportionality.” These terms have no practical meaning when it comes to the lust for land theft driving the settlers and the government. Such an opinion is conducive to infringing on the Palestinians’ rights, to Israel’s flouting international law and to undermining the legitimacy of Israel’s justice system.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel