Israel Cites New “Regularization Law” to Defend West Bank Outpost

The State Attorney’s Office cited on Monday, February 13, a controversial law passed in the Knesset just last week, telling the Supreme Court that the legislation must be taken into account when deciding the fate of an outpost settlement cited in a petition filed by Palestinian landowners. Referring to the controversial Regularization Law, which retroactively legalizes Israeli settlements built on private Palestinian land, state attorneys said that “the implications of this law need to be examined” when determining the fate of structures built in the Adei Ad outpost near the settlement of Shilo outside Ramallah in the central occupied West Bank.

A Palestinian farmer viewing the outpost settlement of Adei Ad

A Palestinian farmer viewing the outpost settlement of Adei Ad (Photo: Activestills)

The law, passed on Monday night of last week by a vote of 60-52, authorizes illegal settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, if the settlers living on the land can prove they built their homes in “good faith” or received government support such as the provision of water and electricity. A number of Palestinian and human right Israeli organizations have already petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the law, saying it legalizes the theft of Palestinian land. The law is widely expected to be struck down by the court, with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit saying he cannot defend it in a judicial case.

Six buildings in Adei Ad were erected on land that does not belong to the state, while another structure is only partially standing on state land. The outpost is home to some 60 families. The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, which filed the petition against Adei Ad on behalf of Palestinian landowners, said the state’s reply to the court contained “all unacceptable practices that Israel employs in illegal construction in West Bank. Instead of the state enforcing the law and evacuating the outpost, it explicitly declares more and more land as state land.”

Adei Ad was set up in 1998 as a maverick outpost without official government approval, partially on land allegedly owned by residents of the Palestinian villages of Turmus Ayya, Al-Mughayyir, Qaryut, and Jalud. Activists say Israel has quietly allowed dozens of outposts to remain in the West Bank, demolishing homes only when forced to do so by the court. Yesh Din’s petition against Adei Ad, filed in 2014, called for all of the buildings in the community to be evacuated and not just those on private Palestinian land, claiming the outpost has become a focal point of criminal activity, violence and disruption of the human rights of the Palestinians in the area.

In 2013, Yesh Din published a report entitled The Road to Dispossession, which demonstrated how the establishment of an outpost, with or without the assistance of authorities, led to systematic violation of the law and continued injury to the residents of the adjacent Palestinian villages. The report emphasized the direct connection between the failure of the state of Israel to enforce the law and protect Palestinians and their property and the expansion of outposts and the territories under their control with the resulting dispossession of Palestinians from their lands.

In 2014, Yesh Din petitioned the Supreme on behalf of the council heads of the Palestinian villages of Turmusaya, Al Mughayer, Qaryut, and Jalud, demanding the court order the state to remove the outpost. The petition, the first of its kind, demands removal of the outpost not only because it was built illegally, in part on private Palestinian land, but also because it is a hub for criminal activity, extreme violence and systematic violations of the human rights of Palestinian residents of the area, in an effort to drive them from their land.

According to the petition, “the outpost of Adei Ad, which stands defiantly on a hilltop overlooking the fields of the villages in the area…has amassed a decisive impact on the daily lives of the residents of Turmusaya, Al Mughayer, Qaryut, and Jalud, while expanding and spreading into the villages’ lands; it is a source for violent acts committed against many Palestinians, primarily residents of the neighboring villages; constitutes a hub for advocating vandalism of property and land, with the goal of expelling them and expropriating additional land, as well as for expanding the outpost’s territory de-facto.”

In its response submitted in September 2015, the state admitted that there was widespread illegal construction in the outpost and that in effect it is not enforcing the law regarding illegal construction there. The State Attorney also admitted “the Shilo valley and Adei Ad area are marked as a key focal point requiring unique treatment and work.” Despite this, following the passage of the Regularization Law last wee, the state has now announced that it intends to authorize the outpost of Adei Ad along with three other nearby unauthorized outposts – Kida, Esh Kodesh and Ahiya. According to the state’s response, after clarifying which lands are state lands and which are private lands, only structures not built on private lands in “good faith” and which received no government support will be removed; all the rest of the illegal construction will be retroactively authorized.