Adalah calls to halt expansion of Gilo settlement onto land belonging to Palestinian town

Plan to expand Jerusalem-area settlement onto Beit Jala is breach of international law, serious violation of Palestinian property rights.

Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent a letter to the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee on 20 September 2016 expressing opposition to its plan to expand the settlement of Gilo onto wide swaths of land belonging to the Palestinian town of Beit Jala, located between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Bethlehem.


The letter was sent on behalf of the Beit Jala municipality.


Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara stated in the letter that "the plan continues the illegal policy of settlement construction on territory occupied since 1967. International humanitarian law obligates Israel to ensure essential needs of the civilian population are met, to refrain from making fundamental changes to the occupied areas, and to refrain from expropriating occupied territories for political purposes. This plan entails fundamental alterations to the demographic composition and physical reality in the area via the expansion of the Gilo settlement and the transfer by the occupying power of its civilian population into the occupied territory. These actions violate international law as related to Israel as an occupying power in the region."


Adalah also argues that the planned expansion infringes the basic constitutional rights of Beit Jala's 15,700 Palestinian residents.


View of Gilo settlement as seen from Beit Jala. (Photo by Sven-Christian Kindler/Flickr)


"This plan seriously impinges upon the property rights of the local Palestinian residents. It will result in expropriation of land from the Palestinian population for the express interests of the occupying power. Some of the land upon which the Gilo settlement was built belonged to Palestinians – either privately or collectively – who lived or still live in the towns of Beit Jala and Sharafat. The expansion of the settlement onto additional land belonging to the town of Beit Jala and its residents undoubtedly constitutes a violation of basic property rights, particularly given the illegality of the settlement's construction in the first place," Adalah stressed.


Attorney Bishara further emphasized that the plan to expand the Gilo settlement was not pursued for a proper purpose.


"A ‘proper purpose’ of an administrative action is defined as one that takes into consideration human rights does not rest on a presumption of unjust harm to human rights. This plan stands to cause serious and sweeping damage to the rights of local Palestinian residents in the absence of a proper purpose."


Adalah therefore demands that the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee cancel the plan to expand the Gilo settlement onto Beit Jala and refrain from any future efforts to advance said plan.


READ: Adalah's letter to Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee (Hebrew)