Israeli army lawyers are recommending that “individual Jews should be allowed to buy private land” in the occupied West Bank, reported Haaretz, in a development being described as “revolutionary”.
According to the article, Defence Ministry and military legal advisers have passed their opinions to deputy Attorney General Erez Kaminitz, “who is expected to confirm them with the backing of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit”.
As it currently stands, “only Jordanians, Palestinians or ‘foreigners of Arab origin’ are allowed to buy land in the West Bank”, under a law left over “from the time it was under Jordanian rule”.
Israeli Jews, meanwhile, “are only allowed to do real estate deals there via a company”, and with the approval of the so-called Civil Administration, a government body which manages the occupation.
Major Tzvi Mintz, writing in the name of the army’s regional legal adviser, acknowledged that under the international rules of belligerent occupation, the Israeli army may only issue orders that benefit the local population.
Noting that “over the years it has been customary to treat only the Palestinian population as the local population”, Mintz added that Israeli settlers could also be defined as part of the local population, with the attorney general’s approval.
Without this shift, Mintz said, “the proposed change would have to be justified as benefiting the Palestinian population, which would certainly raise difficulties.”
Mintz warned that pursuing such an interpretation of “local population” – so as to include settlers living in illegal settlements – could be “perceived as an infraction of the laws of belligerent occupation” and “could lead to significant international criticism”.
Legal advisers to the Defence Ministry, however, describing “the Israeli military government” as “the sovereign in the region [the West Bank]”, wrote that in their view, “the proposed amendment will survive international criticism”.