The unauthorized outpost of Mitzpe Kramim has been the focus of a legal, public and political battle for more than a decade. For the settler public, as well as certain elements in the Israeli parliament and government, it has become an icon, a test case that may pave the way for the sweeping retroactive approval of thousands more structures in the West Bank. On the other side of the aisle are the residents of Deir Jarir, on whose lands the outpost was illegally built. They have been waging a persistent battle for their rights to the land and against the landgrab carried out by the state and the settlers.
This report tells the story of how the unauthorized outpost of Mitzpe Kramim was built and became further established, presenting, along the way, the political background and context for its establishment, the legal battle the Palestinian landowners waged to have it removed, the state’s attempts to retroactively approve the outpost, thereby preventing the return of the stolen land to its rightful owners, and, finally, the legal interpretation used to justify the retroactive approval of the outpost, which is illegal according to Israel’s own position.
In 2000, the unauthorized outpost of Mitzpe Kramim was established on privately owned and registered Palestinian land near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar. When Amana built permanent structures in the outpost in 2010, residents of the Palestinian village of Deir Jarir petitioned the Supreme Court to enforce the law on the illegal construction taking place on their land. The settlers of Mitzpe Kramim retaliated by suing the petitioners and demanding they be acknowledged as title holders in the area.
During the litigation, the State of Israel sought to have the outpost retroactively legalized. To this end, it invoked the market ouvert principle, which allows, in some cases, to strip owners (the Palestinians in this case) of their title to a property and hand it over to parties who received it (in this case, the settlers) in good faith.
In August 2018, the District Court ruled in favor of the settlers, holding the outpost can be retroactively approved by applying the market ouvert principle. The residents of Deir Jarir appealed the precedent-setting decision to the Supreme Court. Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel asked to join the proceedings as amicus curiae
In late August 2020, the Supreme Court overturned the District Court’s ruling and ordered the removal of the unauthorized outpost within three years. However, in October 2021, the Supreme Court held a further hearing before an extended panel at the request of the Ministry of Defense. The results of this hearing were unknown at the time of writing.
The unauthorized outpost of Mitzpe Kramim and the dubious process by which it was established did not appear out of thin air. Like other settlements built in the OPT, an entire system driven by the ideology of the settlement movement and involving a plethora of state agencies led to the installation of the outpost on privately owned Palestinian land and the subsequent concerted efforts to have it retroactively approved. This report takes a close look at how the Israeli authorities and the individuals who settled in the area worked together, using a pincer movement that combined legal efforts with practical steps on the ground to legitimize the landgrab.