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Settlements watchdog warns of accelerated Israeli land seizures

Palestinians demonstrate against the construction of illegal settlements in West Bank on 15 September 2017 [Wisam Hashlamoun/Apaimages]

Peace Now has slammed a recently issued legal opinion by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit permitting the confiscation of private Palestinian land for the benefit of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), warning it could accelerate land seizures.

Mandelblit's legal opinion was published in the context of Haresha, a settlement outpost near Ramallah, whose residents and supporters are seeking the retroactive legalisation of an access road.

All Israeli settlements, whether state-sanctioned or unauthorised outposts, are illegal under international law, and are considered to form part of an inherently discriminatory regime.

According to a statement by the settlements watchdog, "confiscating the land would constitute a severe violation of international humanitarian law and of the Palestinians' right to own property".

In addition, the legal opinion "regarding the access road might lead to additional confiscations of private Palestinian lands, strengthening Israel's stronghold over Palestinian territory".

"The AG [Attorney General] seeks to allow the confiscation of lands owned by Palestinians, who have no voting rights in Israel for the benefit of Israeli settlers with full rights," Peace Now added.

Read: Israel to vote on annexing illegal West Bank settlements

The legal opinion does not explicitly allow any confiscation for the purpose of settlement, but states that in certain cases, confiscation of land is legitimate, subject to the Attorney General's approval.

Peace Now explained that "throughout the years, the Israeli government's position, alongside decisions of the High Court of Justice, was that it is prohibited to confiscate private lands for the purpose of settlement", a prohibition which "made it impossible for the government to retroactively legalise housing units built on private Palestinian lands."

"Now," the statement continued, "it appears that the AG is attempting to remove the last legal (and moral) barrier on the road to turn theft and expulsion into a formal way of establishing settlements in the Occupied [Palestinian] Territories."

Settlement – Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

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