Court Rules Building Can Continue in Ofra

A view of Ofra. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The High Court on Monday rejected a petition by Palestinians claiming that much of the land on which the town of Ofra is built belongs to them. The land, the court ruled, was not privately owned, but had been in the possession of the Jordanian military before the 1967 Six Day War – meaning that it had been ownerless when it was confiscated by the IDF, and later turned into a local authority, where hundreds of homes have been built. Construction in the town according to its master plan can continue, the court said.

The 2014 petition against the town’s master plan came in the wake of the demolition of homes in Amona, a neighborhood in Ofra that Palestinians claimed they owned. Under Israeli law, Palestinians need to just claim that they had farmed land for 10 years in order to establish ownership. The petitioners claimed that the land claimed by the IDF had been done incorrectly, and that town plans showed that much of the land was privately owned.

The court rejected the petition against the town’s master plans, accepting the state’s arguments that the plans actually do not include any private land, and that all land in the plan is former Jordanian military land, allowing construction of homes.

Former Justice Minister MK Ayelet Shaked congratulated the court for its decision. “The reason for this decision is based on the change in the stance of the state that I, together with the State Attorney, led to legalize Jewish settlement in Yehudah and Shomron. This decision ratifies the state’s position that there is no legal reason not to build new homes in Yehudah and Shomron,” she said.