The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday issued a dramatic ruling calling to regulate the Jewish settlement of Mitzpe Kramim, by applying the “market ouvert” which allows ownership of the land to be registered to the people who bought it from the state, even if the state was wrong to sell the land in the first place. Rather than dismantling the community and evacuating the Jewish residents — as had been the case in so many past rulings in Judea and Samaria, this court called for the Arab claimants to be compensated for their lost land, while the Jewish homes remain standing and their residents quite happy.
Located on a mountain ridge overlooking the Jordan Valley, the settlement of Mitzpe Kramim is under the jurisdiction of the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council.
The court ruling follows the spirit, but not the letter of the Regulation Law, a relatively recent legislation aims to retroactively legalize Israeli settlements in Area C of Judea and Samaria, which is entirely under Israeli rule. The law regulates the status of about 2,000 to 4,000 homes in 16 settlements which were partially or completely built on Arab-owned lands.
The Knesset passed the Regulation Law by a 60 to 52 vote in February 2017, declaring that the land on which the homes in question were built will continue to belong to their legal owners, but their usage will be expropriated by the State. In exchange, the Arab owners will be compensated at a rate of 125% of market value, or receive alternative land of equal value—when possible.
Tuesday’s ruling gives a green light for a legitimate government plan for Mitzpe Kramim, which was established in the late 1990s, and is home to dozens of families. The court, in effect, has granted a first legal precedent for establishing the legal foundations of young settlements throughout Judea and Samaria.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) called the District Court’s decision a “small step, great hope.”
“The court’s decision to apply the market ouvert (section 5) to the Mitzpe Kramim settlement is a knockout,” Smotrich continued, “An important step in the right direction.”
“I am glad that common sense has won, and as a result of the decision it will be possible to arrange Mitzpeh Kramim and continue to arrange a large part of the young settlements in Judea and Samaria,” Smotrich said. “I congratulate my friends, the residents of Mitzpeh Kramim, and wish them finally to embark on a new path of building and developing the community.”
“I also hope that the Civil Administration will take in the court’s criticism, including the high court costs imposed on it, and will stop shoving sticks in the spokes of regulating the settlements,” Smotrich said.
Regavim, which initiated the Regulation Law, praised the district court’s ruling, calling it “the product of a protracted legal struggle, which was conducted by the settlement enterprise which demanded the regulation of communities established by the State of Israel.”
“This is a historic and welcome decision,” Regavim said in a statement. “We call on the Attorney General to apply the principles set forth in the judgment to other settlements in Judea and Samaria, whose regulation is required.”
Regavim’s mention of the AG was not accidental. In early February this year, when the law was brought before the Supreme Court of Israel by 17 PA local municipalities and three human rights organizations, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced that he could not defend the law, which he deemed unconstitutional, warning that it might lead to a lawsuit against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
Indeed, the German Foreign Ministry stated at the time that its “trust in the Israeli government’s commitment to the two-state solution” had been “fundamentally shaken.”
Now, if you can’t get Germans to trust you, who can you get?
Eventually, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, whose party Habayit Hayehudi was the political force behind the legislation, responded to the AG’s betrayal by saying that the State would hire a private lawyer to do the job.