A recently published legal opinion by Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, which addressed and approved of the expropriation of private Palestinian land, could pave the way to the retroactive legalisation of at least 13 settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, Haaretz reports.
Although Mandelblit's opinion only dealt with one specific case – the expropriation of land for an access road to Harsha settlement outpost – according to Haaretz, "there are at least 13 such outposts in a similar situation", based on official data.
As summarised by the paper, at the core of Mandelblit's opinion "is the finding that land owned by individual Palestinians can be expropriated to create an access road to an outpost even if the road is to be used only by Jewish settlers".
Haaretz noted that "it's a precedent-setting decision at variance with how Israel has treated private Palestinian land in the West Bank."
Similar situations to that of Harsha – established by settlers on so-called state-owned land surrounded by privately-owned Palestinian land – exist "at a number of other outposts, even according to a narrow interpretation of Mandelblit's opinion".
Dror Etkes of settlement-monitoring NGO Kerem Navot said: "These cumbersome efforts by Mandelblit to legitimise the extensive expropriation reveals, just like the land-grab law does, the magnitude of Israel's 50-year-long practice of stealing land."
"Official Israel has stopped being embarrassed by this and is gradually adopting it as official policy."
On Thursday, the attorney general is due to "present his position regarding the land-grab law, which would allow Israel to expropriate private Palestinian land in the West Bank where Israeli settlements or outposts have been built, allowing settlers to remain in their homes without owning the land."