JERUSALEM (Mar. 15)
The Supreme Court ruled today that Jewish settlements in the occupied Arab territories are legal if their existence is necessary to the security of the State as long as a state of war exists. The unanimous ruling by the panel of five justices put an end to legal challenges to Israel’s settlement policy and was seen as opening the way to the proliferation of settlements in the occupied areas.
The court rendered its decision on an appeal by Arab residents of Bet EI and Tubas on the West Bank against the seizure of their lands by the army for eventual settlement. They contended that this did not serve any military purpose and was in conflict with international law. But the court accepted the government’s contention that the lands seized were strategically sensitive and therefore important to security. It also claimed that the seizures were in accordance with Article 52 of the Geneva Convention which permits the seizure of land for military purposes.
A representative of the International Red Cross who attended the hearings said he would report to his headquarters in Geneva. Settlers in the Jordan Valley were relieved by the decision. They had feared that if the Arabs appeal-succeeded, Arab landowners in the Jordan Valley would be in a position to challenge the legitimacy of their own settlements.
Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, who heads the Ministerial Settlement Committee and is a strong advocate of massive Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, told settlers in Bet EI that the court ruling cleared the way for more settlements an hitherto disputed land.