JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli court ruled that a West Bank outpost can be legalized even though part of it is built on land that Palestinians claim they own.
The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday based its decision on laws regarding Israel’s market regulation, which allows for illegal property transactions to be when a buyer was unaware that the transaction was illegal, such as with stolen goods.
The Mitzpeh Kramim outpost sits on the outskirts of the Kochav Hashahar settlement located in the northern West Bank. The settlement was established in the 1970s; the outpost was established by several families in 1999.
The first 10 buildings constructed in 1999 had permits and assistance from the government. Subsequent building was undertaken without such permits, according to reports.
Israel’s Civil Administration told Haaretz that the Israeli government did not know in the 1980s when the land was allocated to the World Zionist Organization that it was privately owned because of confusion in the mapping of the area.
In 2011, some of the Palestinian landowners petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court demanding the evacuation of the outpost and the return of their land, according to Peace Now. In response, the outpost’s residents said they settled on the land with the assistance of the government based on assurances that it would retroactively authorized, according to the organization. Two years later, the residents filed a claim in Jerusalem District Court requesting that the land be registered in their name.
The court’s declaratory judgment on Tuesday states that the residents of Mitzpeh Kramim are the legal owners of the land and cannot removed from their homes. The Palestinians who claim ownership of the land parcels reportedly will be compensated.
Now that the District Court has issued its ruling, the Supreme Court can return to the Palestinian petitions, which had been frozen during the lower court’s deliberations. If the Supreme Court agrees with the District Court decision, then the outpost will be legalized.
“As the occupying power that has assumed responsibility for the Occupied Territories for the last 51 years, the state should have protected the property rights of Palestinians who have no civil rights nor the ability to defend their own land. In effect, the ruling means that because the state has failed to protect their land, it is now possible to take the land from the Palestinians and give it to the settlers,” Peace Now said in a statement.