Adalah: Plan to relocate Amona settlement outpost to Palestinian refugees' private lands is illegal

Proposed plan is part of 'Validation Bill,' which would allow Israel to expropriate private Palestinian lands in the West Bank for purposes of settlement construction.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter on 18 August 2016 to Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and Chief Military Advocate General (MAG) Sharon Afek asking them to oppose a proposed plan to relocate the illegal Amona settlement outpost from its current location onto land plots privately owned by Palestinian refugees.


In late 2014, the Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court ordered that the Amona outpost must be evacuated and demolished by the end of 2016 because it was located on private Palestinian land. But the recent plan to relocate the illegal outpost made within the framework of the "Validation Bill," proposed just last month in July 2016, would allow the state to declare certain private Palestinian lands in the West Bank as "abandoned or absentees’ properties" and expropriate them for the purposes of settlement construction for Jewish Israelis.


Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara explained in her letter that this relocation proposal runs contrary to both international law, as well as to Israeli law applicable to occupied territories.


A general view of the illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Amona in the West Bank. (Wikimedia Commons)


According to international law, "Israel is forbidden, as an occupying power, to exploit occupied lands for political or civilian purposes… The proposal seeks to relocate the [Amona] settlement onto lands belonging to Palestinian refugees. But even if these plots are declared 'abandoned or absentees’ properties', this does not change their status as private Palestinian assets and it does not change the status of the settlement as illegal according to international law. Even if these land plots were leased from the Israeli Custodian of Absentees' Property for the use of settlers, this would still nevertheless constitute a violation of international law."


Adalah further argued that this proposal also violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power from making efforts to "deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."


Any such civilian population transfer, Adalah stressed, is considered "a war crime in accordance with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."


Adalah maintained that the proposal to transfer the Amona settlement outpost onto lands privately owned by Palestinian refugees is also a clear violation of Israeli law.


"Settlement construction on private Palestinian land undoubtedly constitutes a violation of property rights. The [Israeli] Supreme Court placed a special emphasis on the property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank and even referenced it as a constitutional right that may not be harmed, unless for a worthy purpose, in a proportionate fashion, and in a manner that aligns with the principles of both international humanitarian law and Israeli law," Attorney Bishara explained.


Adalah maintained that the proposal's purpose cannot be considered worthy and that, indeed, "the primary consideration behind this proposal is 'finding a solution' for illegal settlements in the West Bank. This political purpose stands in opposition both to international law, as detailed above, as well as to numerous United Nations Security Council decisions regarding Israeli settlement construction in territories occupied since 1967, which emphasized the illegality of Israeli settlements in these territories."


Adalah demands that the Attorney General, Defense Minister, and MAG reject the proposal to relocate the illegal Amona settlement outpost from its current location onto lands owned by Palestinian refugees.


READ: Adalah’s Letter (Hebrew)


READ: Suhad Bishara, “Who has the right to steal Palestinian land?” The Nakba Files, 10 August 2016


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