Israel’s Decision to Declare 988 Acres of West Bank Territory as State Land


There is considerable confusion about the recent action of Israel’s civil administration declaring 988 acres of West Bank territory as state land. In general, West Bank territory may be divided into three legal categories: state land, private land, and land whose status is to be determined. The territory in question had the status of territory whose status is to be determined. Before the declaration of the land as state land, an investigation had to be undertaken by Israel’s civil administration that took several years in order to ascertain its exact status.

Those who oppose the recent declaration have 45 days to appeal the Israeli decision. When Palestinians have brought proof of ownership of contested territory to Israeli courts, including Israel’s Supreme Court, the courts have at times issued decisions calling on the Israeli government to restore the property in question to its Palestinian claimant, even if that requires dismantling the private homes of Israeli citizens. The determination of territory as state land as opposed to private land is a necessary action which helps avert errors in the future when these areas are developed.

But looking at the decision of Israel’s civil administration in a wider diplomatic context, it should be remembered that the Oslo II Interim Agreement, signed by Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat at the White House in 1995 (and witnessed by the EU), established a division of the West Bank into three areas: Area A, where the Palestinians had full control, Area B where there was mixed Israeli and Palestinian security control but full Palestinian civil control, and Area C, where Israel had full military and civilian control. Israeli responsibilities in Area C included the power of zoning and planning. The territory which Israel declared as state land is within Area C.

It should be stressed that the architects of the Oslo Agreements understood, as a result, that Palestinians would develop areas under their jurisdiction while Israel would develop areas it controlled as well. That is why there was no settlement freeze in the original Oslo Agreements. Over the years the Palestinians witnessed that what will determine Israel’s borders are negotiations and not construction; after all, Israel dismantled all its settlements in Sinai when it made peace with Egypt in 1979 and it withdrew all its settlements from the Gaza Strip as part of its Gaza Disengagement in 2005.

Moreover, looking to the future, the territory in question, at present, is part of a settlement bloc, south of Jerusalem, known as Gush Etzion, which was settled by Jews prior to 1948, but lost by Israel when it came under attack by Arab forces. During past negotiating rounds it became clear to Israelis and Palestinians alike that at the end of the day when a territorial compromise is reached, Israel will retain the settlement blocs (UN Security Council Resolution 242, drafted after the Six-Day War, never envisioned a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines in any case).

The determination that Israel will retain the settlement blocs is reflected in U.S. diplomatic communications like the 2004 letter by President Bush to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the statements made by President Obama in 2011 about demographic changes on the ground and changes in the 1967 lines. The least controversial of these settlement blocs in past negotiations is, in fact, Gush Etzion.

Finally, there is the question of legality which has been a point of disagreement for many years. The question of legality comes from Article 49 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits moving the inhabitants in any occupied territory out of the occupied territory. The final section of the article also prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s population into an occupied territory. The view of Israeli jurists, and important U.S. jurists as well (like Eugene Rostow, the former dean of Yale Law School), is that this section relates to the forcible movement of an occupier’s population into an occupied territory. This language was incorporated after World War II as a reaction to Nazi German policies of forcibly transferring German Jews to Occupied Poland for extermination. It is no wonder that the Israeli Supreme Court never ruled that settlements are illegal, despite the announcements of a number of foreign ministries around the world.

September 1, 2014 | 8 Comments »

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8 Comments / 8 Comments

  1. @ yamit82:

    Rav Meir Kahane will live in my memory for the rest of my life. It was almost 24 years since I last saw him. He had come to Madison, Wisconsin to talk with Jewish students on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We both were guests early that even for dinner at the home of the local Lubavich Rav, Yona Matusov. Rav Kahane spent the night with us, after a lengthy siyum with a group of students who followed us out to my house in the wooded countryside outside Madison. The mext morning I drove him to the airport for his flight to Minneapolis-St Paul, where he had another talk scheduled at a local campus. Two weeks later, he was assassinated in New York City by an Arab.

    Rav Kahane was one of the few people I ever have known who could best be described as an example of a total and complete man of integrity, and as an authentic Jewish leader who lived the authentic Jewish idea which he so skillfully wrote about.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  2. @ yamit82:
    (continued) The US is an economic basketcase. They cannot afford the interest of the loans for th foreign aid it throws out…like drunken sailors…incompetent/stupid. Who respects The US today. Not even Mexico. The US trained the terrorists in Judea and Samaria, and they have Israel’s back, I do not think so. They trained The Iraqi Army…they dropped their US supplied weapons and ran. The US should have their driver’s license revoked by DMV.

  3. @ yamit82:

    SHmuel: Well I do agree. Sure, that makes sense. For one thing: one chronic ear sore one could not ignore, was hearing time and time again;the analysts warn of an impending takeover of Egypt by The MB. Well thanks to obama we have seen this movie for tv, for real and it was a flop. obama obviously was in the process of the same maneuver in Libya, but that got out of hand and he killed off the US Ambassador and colleagues. Well no reason to have a bad day, nothing a good golf game on Martha’s Vineyard could not cure. “Let Clinton figure out who to blame”, “I’m OUT to everyone”.
    If Netanyahu has any guts, he will chart a new course immediately, sideline obama and kerry, just shine ’em on and continue to annex Israel’s heartland. Let it be obama’s legacy in Middle East troublemaking. Then, Netanyahu should resign and give Naftali an opportunity to fix these polemics.

  4. There is no peace between Israel and the Jewish nation, on one side, and Fatah, Hamas and the Palestine Arabs, on the other side. And there never will be peace. Which means that negotiations with any or all of them, including routing interference from Obama, Kerry, the EU and the UNO, is all a lot of blather that Israel and the Jewish nation should simply ignore. None of them ever will even recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish capital city of the only Jewish state in the world.

    So drop all the bullshit and get busy making Area C, which constitutes about 62% of the land area of Shomron and Yehuda, as Jewish as Tel Aviv. A Jewish population increase of 8000-9000/month is easily achievable, and in any case, the Jewish population in Area C already outnumbers the Arab population many times over.

    Co-incidental with that, and probably even preceding it, you will need to elect and empower a stronger government representing mainly Jewish nationalist values, a government that will not degrade our proud Jewish nation by waiting around for the US government to give them green lights to build the Jewish state. Leave that approach for the liberal Jewish ass-lickers who help put such people into power here.

    You won’t get the respect of anybody in the world unless and until you build up the power base of the Jewish nation and the Jewish state. And you never will achieve that trying to weaken the authentic Jewish idea with western liberal democracy.

    If Eretz-Israel rightfully belongs to the Jewish nation, then take it, rebuild the Jewish nation there, and allow nobody else to have overriding say-so about how the Jewish state is to be managed.

    What about any of the above does anyone fail to understand?

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  5. @ bernard ross:

    The Root of All The Evils – What Will America Say

    Since the election of Netanyahu, all the analysts and “experts” warn us that if “God forbid” the peace process does not continue, then “OY VEY” from the American reaction…

    If this was only the “experts” talking, we would be able to understand. The real problem is that we hear the same “tunes” from so many religious Jews: “Yes, it is our land, and we must treat the enemy according to how Torah commands us, but…but what will America say? And how will we manage with out their aid?”


    This is by no means an exaggeration. The underlying root and cause for all our national sins is lack of faith in God. It is lack of belief that God indeed gave us all that he gave us in this generation, including victory after victory over cruel and massive enemies, and that He really can defend us if we hearken to His voice and actualize the national mitzvot He commanded of us – from settling the land to disinheriting the gentiles from it! But alas, apparently even those who resound the praises of God with their lips, grip the sword of fear in their hands. The slightest threat from America – and their knees start shaking!

    “And Israel dwelleth in safety” – When? When she is isolated. And the word”and dwelleth” is a continuation of what is written above it, that ‘And said: Destroy’, that God commanded Israel to wipe out all the inhabitants of the land, and by so doing, ‘Israel dwelled securely – in isolation’ (Deuteronomy 33:28)

    Read full Essay

  6. Good timing, appropriate move, Obama is looking like a lame duck more everyday. . We will try to get a true friend back into the oval office, not easy but possible. In the meantime: give that sob obama what he deserves, annex every square inch of the “disputed territories”, aka our Jewish homeland and plan to take more. I suggest Southern Lebanon and Syria and don’t give it back. Oh and sell whatever you want to India and China, F__K THE PENTAGON/STATE DEPT/DIA/CIA THEY’RE PROVEN CANNIBALS AND MORONS.

  7. It is interesting how the detractors are able to muster a big noise when Israel even considers settling a piece of land right next to its green line. They know how to keep Israel frozen in time and subject to their whims.

    Everything keeps returning back to the historic and legal rights of Jewish settlement in the mandate territory. All of the problems come to this massive failure of Israel NOT to support Jewish settlement in YS and in fact to obstruct that settlement. It is Israel that keeps contributing to the canards and libels with its own failed policies of avoidance and negligence of the important issues. Perhaps this relates to the inabilities of Jews to agree on the most simple of self interests. does the land belong to the Jews or not….if you own it you can give some away for peace if you wish but if you do not own it then you are obviously a thief in anyone’s book. Israel has painted a picture of itself to the world as a thief and it appears that many Israelis have bought into this picture that Israel created. Israels negligence is the cause of the libels against Israel AND the Jews.

    The beginning is to proclaim daily loud and clear far and wide:
    the land belongs to the Jews,
    if you play nice you may be able to stay or get some….
    but first, at every discussion without faltering….
    the land belongs to the Jews
    the pals are intelligent enough to declare that it belongs to them but the Jews who think they are so smart cannot arrive at this simple conclusion.