State: Settlement Law Could ‘Save’ Almost 3,500 Homes

Construction of new buildings in Tzur Hadassah (R.) and Beitar Illit (L.), in 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A codicil to the state’s response to the High Court on the legality of the Settlement Arrangements Law states that there are 3,455 homes in Yehudah and Shomron that the law could be applied to. The Civil Administration has in the past issued demolition orders for some of the homes, but with the law’s passage, those orders are being held up.

According to the Civil Administration figures presented the High Court, Haaretz says, 1,285 of the homes are built on land that appears to have definite Palestinian ownership. Another 1,048 are built on land claimed by Palestinians, but whose claims have not been proven. A third group of 1,122 homes are 20 years old or more, built before planning laws in Yehudah and Shomron were enforced.

Of the first category, 543 of the homes are built on land that “actively” belongs to Palestinians. According to the law, land that has been worked for 10 years or more can be claimed by the people working on it as their own. The rest of the homes are built on land owned by absentee owners. In all these cases, the Settlement Arrangements Law could be enacted to ensure the rights of the Israeli homeowners, while providing appropriate compensation for Palestinians who claim ownership, the Civil Authority said.

In its response to the court, the state said that the law provides “a human response and fair consideration for the distress of thousands of Israeli families,” removing from them “a cloud of insecurity and questions about the future.”

The Settlement Arrangements Law is meant to prevent demolitions of Israeli houses inadvertently built on land claimed by Arabs in Yehudah and Shomron. The law replaces the process which had been in place previously, in which Arab claims of ownership of land on which Israeli homes are built were adjudicated by the High Court. The bill instead institutes a special arbitration process that would, among other things, advocate land swaps that would replace the land claimed by Palestinians with state land of equal or greater value that is not in dispute.