JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel’s High Court of Justice on Tuesday struck down a law that would retroactively legalize unlawful Jewish settlement communities built on private Palestinian property in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria.
The court’s 8-1 decision ruled that the “Law for the Regularization of Settlement in Judea and Samaria” was “unconstitutional and ordered it nullified,” explaining that it “violates the property rights and equality of Palestinians, and gives clear priority to the interests of Israeli settlers over Palestinian residents [of the West Bank],” a court statement said.
The law, passed by Israel’s parliament in 2017, was created to legalize some 4,000 illegal settler units built on Palestinian-owned land in the West Bank. The controversial law has been frozen since it was passed and Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit refused to defend it.
While the international community considers all settlement communities illegal, Israel differentiates between legal homes approved by the Defense Ministry on state-owned land, and illegal communities built often without government authorization on private Palestinian property.
The law guaranteed that Palestinian owners would receive 125 percent financial compensation for their expropriated property, but the court said the measure did not “provide sufficient weight” to the status of “Palestinians as protected residents in an area under military occupation.”
The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice Esther Hayut, said that while it is “understandable” for Israeli leaders to want to legalize the homes instead of demolishing them, it “does not justify such significant violation of property rights and the rights to dignity and equality that the Palestinian population [deserves].”
Justice Noam Sohlberg wrote in his minority opinion that while the law did violate the property rights of Palestinians, the court should have asked the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) to revise the law instead of completely throwing it out.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party called the High Court’s ruling “unfortunate” and said it would work to reenact the legislation.
Defense Minister and “Alternate” Prime Minister Benny Gantz said the ruling was expected and the law “should never have been passed in the first place.”
The ruling comes as Netanyahu readies to fulfill his campaign promise of annexing parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley beginning on July 1.
Israel insists the annexation is important to the state’s security, but the move is widely condemned by the international community.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas landed in Israel on Wednesday to reiterate Germany’s unequivocal dedication to Israel’s safety, but also express opposition to the annexation plans. Mass will also meet with Palestinian leaders through video due to coronavirus restrictions.
Palestinian Authority President Mohammed Shtayyeh announced on Tuesday it sent a counteroffer to US President Donald Trump’s Mideast peace plan to the diplomatic Quartet.
The Quartet is the group of entities mediating the conflict and include the United Nations, the United States, Russia and the European Union
“We submitted a counter-proposal to the Quartet a few days ago,” Shtayyeh said.
Like Trump’s peace plan, the Palestinian proposal calls for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state. It would be an “independent and demilitarized” nation with “minor modifications of borders where necessary,” the prime minister said.
It’s unclear what will become of the proposal. In the meantime, the PA told the New York Times on Monday that it is considering cutting off civil services to Palestinians in hopes of forcing Israel to abandon annexation.