Twenty-three council heads of Palestinian villages, four landowners, and 13 human rights organizations petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) on 5.3.2017, demanding that the court order the annulment of the law on the expropriation of private Palestinian land in the West Bank (the Regulation Law). Furthermore, the petitioners requested that the court issue an interim injunction preventing the state from commencing land expropriation proceedings.
The petition indicates that according to Peace Now, the law will result in the confiscation of tens of thousands of dunams of land owned by thousands of Palestinians. The petition claimed that the law — contrary to the opinions of the attorney general, the Knesset's legal advisor, and the Ministry of Defense's legal advisor — is unconstitutional because it constitutes a flagrant violation of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty; the law limits the authorities' discretion and obliges them to expropriate Palestinians' land-use rights and possession of their private land for an indefinite period. The law also denies Palestinians who did not partake in elections for the government that expropriates their land, any possibility of opposing the expropriation proceedings.
In addition, the law violates absolute prohibitions of international humanitarian law and the laws of occupation, as well as international treaties to which Israel is a signatory that oblige the state of Israel to protect the rights of residents in occupied territory, and prohibit confiscation of their property for immediate security purposes. The petition emphasizes that the implementation of the provisions of the law may implicate citizens and members of the security forces who will be asked to implement it, as well as Knesset members who voted for it, in committing war crimes.
The petition even emphasizes that the very enactment of the law constitutes an excess of the Knesset’s authority, which is not authorized to regulate land laws in an area that is not sovereign territory of the state of Israel. To date, Israeli legislation regarding the West Bank has been personal legislation, which solely applies to Israeli citizens living in the West Bank. The enactment of the law is a clear act of sovereignty, namely a blatant act of illegal annexation.
On 17.8.2017, in a very unusual fashion, the court granted the attorney general's request, and validated a temporary injunction to the procedural outline proposed by the attorney general following submission of the petition. The order froze implementation of the law. Thus, the HCJ effectively halted the process of expropriation of private Palestinian land for the benefit of settlers; on the other hand, all enforcement measures against illegal takeover and construction on private Palestinian land are also frozen, until the law is annulled.
On 4.12.2017, the Supreme Court issued an decree nisi instructing the respondents to reply within two and a half months. The petition will be heard before nine judges.
HCJ 2055/17 Head of the Ein Yabrud Village Council v. Knesset
Attorneys: Michael Sfard (Yesh Din and Peace Now), Shlomy Zachary and Michal Ziv (Yesh Din), Dan Yakir and Roni Pelli (ACRI)
For further information (Hebrew)