By Mara Vigevani/TPS
Some two dozen residents of Judea and Samaria communities demonstrated Sunday in front the High Court of Justice, calling on the court to reject a legal challenge to the 2017 “regulations law” that retroactively grants legal status to Israeli outposts that were built without government approval and only later discovered to sit on privately owned land.
The residents, who attended the demonstration in shifts, blasted the court for what they called a “left-wing bias” and said they were demonstrating despite the fact they believed they had little chance to dislodge a legal challenge to the law filed by 13 rights groups, including Yesh Din, Peace Now and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, as well as local councils from 23 Palestinian Authority villages in Judea and Samaria.
“This law should have been passed decades ago, it is so many years we came to live in Ofra, with the help of the government “ Rina Bakshi, a resident from Ofra told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “We feel we are not sure the judges are really listening to us or doing justice, and that (they have) pre-determined the outcome (against us) “ she said.
Bakshi said that Israel should compensate Arab land owners for lost property, but said that the Palestinian Authority law and social norms today put Arab lives at risk if they sell land to Jews.
“If it the land belongs to a private individual, maybe we can pay them. We should think about what to do. Today, Arabs cannot sell land (to Jews) because they will be killed by their brothers.That is terrible.
“But even when you demolish homes, like they did with nine homes in Ofra, there is nothing to do with the land. It is now just standing there – it isn’t like someone else is using it or living there,” Bakshi said.
Opponents of the law say it violates Israel’s Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, ratified in March, 1992 because it does not provide Arab landowners with legal options to oppose expropriation if they refuse compensation.
Defending the law, the state is represented by Harel Arnon, a private lawyer, because Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has refused to defend it.
The Regulation Law was passed in February 2017 following the eviction of some 40 families from Amona, an unauthorized outpost adjacent to the settlement of Ofra, north of Jerusalem. The law would retroactively legalize close to 4,000 homes that were unknowingly built on private land, by expropriating land rights to the state. The landowners would be compensated with other lands or compensation at a rate of 125 percent of the land’s value.
The state said, in a response to the High Court decision to frozen the law in August 2017, that it believed the Regulation Law met the criteria of both Israeli law and international law and that it rejected “attempts to intimidate the government and its officials on the grounds that the Law constitutes a violation of international law.” Furthermore, it said, “the government of Israel rejects attempts to impose on the State of Israel different and more stringent standards that are standard practice elsewhere in the world.”
The response added that “the Law improves the situation of the (Palestinian) landowners vis-a-vis their present situation in which they find themselves without land, without compensation and without the ability to sell, this as a result of the racist legislation passed by the Palestinian Authority which calls for the death sentence in the event of selling land to Jews.”
“This is a historic opportunity to regulate settlement in Judea and Samaria through the law passed in the Knesset, which should be approved immediately by the Court,” Ido Meushar, Eli Settlement leader told TPS during Sunday’s demonstration.