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Israel's Supreme Court dismisses petition against settlement built on private Palestinian land

The illegal Jewish settlement of Neve Yaakov (foreground) in the northern area of east Jerusalem and Israel's controversial barrier separating the Palestinian neighbourhood of al-Ram (background) in the West Bank, on April 1, 2019. [AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP / Getty]
The illegal Israeli settlement of Neve Yaakov in the West Bank, on 1 April 2019 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP /Getty]

Israel’s highest court yesterday dismissed a petition brought by Palestinian landowners, thus effectively greenlighting the state’s master plan for a major settlement in the occupied West Bank.

As reported by the Times of Israel, the Supreme Court – sitting as the High Court of Justice – rejected the Palestinians’ claims, in a major boost for the residents of Ofra settlement.

The Palestinian petitioners, from Ein Yabrud and Silwad, had argued that a construction plan covering roughly one-third of Ofra’s area should have been dismissed “due to its inclusion of nearly a dozen acres of land that had been registered to residents of their respective towns”.

The justices, however, ruled that the master plan could proceed unaltered, affirming that the settlers’ homes built on privately-owned Palestinian land were established in “good faith”. The use of this legal loophole in such scenarios was first approved by the Attorney General in 2018.

READ: Bennett to enable registry of settlement lands with Israel ministry of justice

The court added, the report noted, “that the Palestinian ownership claims over a small part of the master plan were not enough to disqualify the plan in its entirety.”

Dror Etkes, from settlement watchdog Kerem Navot, regretted that the decision was indeed a “prize” for Ofra’s settlers, but pointed out that the authorities still needed to retroactively “legalise” the remaining two-thirds of the settlement.

According to Etkes, those parts can “only be legalised through the so-called settlement Regulation Law, which was passed in 2017 but has since been frozen by the court and is predicted to be overturned altogether.”

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