The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Gaza) have issued a joint statement criticizing the position of Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, to the petition submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court against the Settlement Regularization Law. The AG’s response was sent to the court last week.
Although Mandelblit maintains that the Settlement Regularization Law should be repealed, Adalah, JLAC, and Al Mezan emphasize that the AG’s own position clashes directly with international law: while opposing the law enacted by the Knesset, he maintains that legalizing the settlements is a “worthy act” and that the State of Israel now has a number of other tools at its disposal that allow it to “validate Israeli construction on private Palestinian land that was transferred to a settlement in good faith.” Mandelblit authorizes use of these tools including, among other measures, expropriating Palestinian land for “public needs,” such as “regulating” the construction of an access road to an illegal Israeli settlement outpost.
According to the Settlement Regularization Law which Mandelblit opposes, West Bank settlements built on privately owned Palestinian land would be “legalized” by the de facto expropriation of the land, planning the settlements, and retroactively authorizing the housing already constructed on private Palestinian property. The law would “regularize” these settlements in the West Bank with territories unilaterally annexed by Israel such as the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem.
In their statement, Adalah, JLAC, and Al Mezan remind Mandelblit that international law explicitly prohibits the construction of settlements and the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population to occupied territory. In fact, such acts are considered war crimes and, as such, international law explicitly forbids the harming of Palestinian property in the West Bank for the purpose of development and expansion of settlements. Therefore, according to the joint statement by the three organizations, the tools which Mandelblit himself sanctions for accomplishing the “worthy act” of legalizing settlements are no less in direct violation of international law than the “Regularization Law” which he ostensibly so vigorously opposes.
The AG’s response addressed the petition challenging the “Regularization Law” submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), Yesh Din, and Peace Now to the Supreme Court on March 3, 2017 on behalf of 27 Palestinian local councils, 4 Palestinian landowners and 13 Israeli civil society organizations.
Mandelblit’s response corresponds with the arguments the petitioners presented against the Regularization Law (otherwise called the “Expropriation Law”): The law is invalid and meant to retroactively legalize illegal construction on private Palestinian land and is not applied in “good faith.” In his response, the Attorney General underlines the petitioners’ position that the law violates Palestinians’ right to property and prioritizes settler interests while ignoring Israel’s duty to protect the local Palestinian population under its occupation. The Attorney General noted that the law outlines an arrangement of land expropriation “that is inherently flawed.”
The Attorney General refused to represent the government in court for this case, given his strong and clear opposition to the law, as detailed in the response he submitted to the court last week.