BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli Supreme Court rejected an appeal filed by residents of the occupied West Bank village of al-Nabi Elyas over Israel’s confiscation of 100 dunams of Palestinian land, Israeli radio reported on Thursday.
According to the Arabic-language Voice of Israel station, the court ruled on Wednesday that residents of al-Nabi Elyas in the district of Qalqiliya could not prove ownership of land which had been seized to build a road.
The court claimed that the road, whose construction is expected to begin in January, would benefit both Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the area.
The ruling added that if Palestinians were able to prove ownership of the land after the confiscation, they were allowed to demand compensation.
The decision from the Supreme Court comes as the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, approved a preliminary reading of a bill which would retroactively legalize settlement outposts
in the occupied West Bank, which are currently deemed illegal under both Israeli and international law, even those built on privately owned Palestinian land.
According to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ), 97 percent of al-Nabi Elyas lands are located in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli military control.
Al-Nabi Elyas “has been subjected to numerous Israeli confiscations for the benefit of the various Israeli objectives, demonstrated by the construction of Israeli settlements, and bypass roads on the village territories,” with nearly 44 percent of the village’s lands having been confiscated to build the illegal Israeli settlement of Alfei Menashe, according to ARIJ.
Israeli plans for its separation wall in the West Bank would also isolate al-Nabi Elyas from “agricultural lands and open spaces which were previously considered as the only chance for the village residents to build and expand in the future,” ARIJ added.
In 1966, when Jordan was in control of the West Bank, the Jordanian government decided to declare hundreds of dunams of land as state land. After Israel took control of the West Bank, Israeli authorities allocated much of the declared state land for the building of settlements.
Since Israel is an occupying power, under international law it is obliged to act within the confines of the local laws of the occupied territory, which in Palestine refers to the British, Ottoman Empire, and Jordanian legal systems.
According to Jordanian law in the West Bank, the state is allowed to declare land “state land” only if it is to be used for the “public benefit.” However, Israel repeatedly uses already declared state land for the sole benefit of Israeli settlers, while also declaring 41 percent of land in the West Bank as Israeli state land through a variety of land confiscation strategies
implemented after 1967, according to ARIJ.