The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favour of settlers after a 22-year legal battle by Palestinians against efforts to annex their land in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom reported today.
The Jewish National Fund has claimed the ownership of 522 dunams (130 acres) as part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc that was established in 1969 on Palestinian lands of Bethlehem villages. The settlers' legal argument was based on the fact that the Jewish National Fund purchased the land from a Palestinian Christian family in 1944 before the Nakba, and the Palestinian family allegedly immigrated to Latin America thereafter. The land were abandoned between the Nakba and the 1967 military occupation of West Bank, the claim alleged.
In 1996, the Jewish National Fund submitted a request to the Israeli Civil Administration, which has administrative control of the West Bank, to register its ownership of the land. The legal battle has been ongoing since then as Palestinians appealed against the settlers' claim, submitting ownership documents for the land. The district court ruled in favour of settlers in 2016, with Palestinians appealing to the Israeli Supreme Court against the decision. This was rejected yesterday.
Most parts of the Gush Etzion settlers' complex are surrounded by the Separation Wall, which is due to surround the entire bloc.
The illegal growth of Gush Etzion has been supported by the occupation authorities, which recently declared lands where settlers have setup illegal outposts as "state lands".