HCJ 5073/17 – Head of the council of Jalud et al. V the IDF Commander in the West Bank et al.

Petition submission date:

The head of the council of the Palestinian village of Jalud, and Yesh Din have filed a petition against the IDF Commander in the West Bank and the Binyamin Regional Council, demanding the court instruct proceedings for the demarcation of settlement jurisdictions be made public and transparent. The petition also calls for the revocation of the jurisdiction allocated for the settlement of Amichai, which includes enclaves of privately owned Palestinian land.

The petition argues that decisions regarding the demarcation of Israeli councils’ jurisdictional boundaries are made behind closed doors without informing the public, which precludes any advance knowledge of planned expansions or new jurisdictions for existing or new settlements. Such jurisdictions often include privately owned Palestinian land that has been seized for military needs or expropriated for public use. The petition also argues that under the procedure for establishing new Israeli settlements, privately owned Palestinian land that has been seized for either military or public purposes, in violation of property rights, is considered public land and that this practice is unlawful and contradicts previous High Court rulings.

Because of the military commander’s practices, Palestinians who are harmed by changes made to jurisdictions, which often cover a much larger area than the settlement to which they belong, are unaware of any planned changes and therefore unable to present their positions to the authorities prior to the final decision. In contrast, when an area under the jurisdiction of one Israeli council is transferred to the jurisdiction of another, there is a public consultation process.

The petition encloses a document uncovered by the Akevot Institute, which reveals that in 1981, a decision was made to designate all public land in the West Bank for Israeli local and regional councils. The document, entitled, “Inclusion of state land, Jewish-owned land and acquired land in the jurisdiction of regional councils”, says the jurisdictions of Israeli councils will include all state land, Jewish-owned land and acquired land in the area of the councils, as well as land in the possession of the supervisor of abandoned and governmental property, including absentee property.

Designating public land to the jurisdiction of settlements or regional councils has a tremendous impact on the lives of Palestinian residents, and violates their fundamental human rights. Palestinians are barred from entering Israeli settlements and jurisdictions and from using many roads inside them. Palestinian land is often trapped in enclaves that can only be accessed with special permits and prior coordination, and such access often involves altercations with settlement residents and security personnel.

In response to the petition, in January 2018 the State announced its intention to change the way in which jurisdictional boundaries are demarcated in the West Bank, so that Palestinians with “personal interests” who may be harmed by the demarcation can make their position known before the decision is made, or request retroactive changes to the boundaries. However, regarding the present petition, the State Attorney’s Office argued that it should be dismissed as the jurisdictional area of the new settlement of Amichai includes only state land, and as the chosen location will enable establishment of the settlement “at a low cost”. Although the State Attorney’s Office admitted that the demarcation of the settlement’s jurisdiction has created enclaves of privately-owned Palestinian land, it argued that the owners will be able to access their land with prior coordination, based on the security situation at the given time, and therefore their rights will not be harmed.

Following the State’s response, in a hearing concerning the petition the judges recommended that it be dismissed, leaving open the possibility of resubmitting the petition should the State not fulfill its obligations. Consequently, the petition was dismissed.

Status: Dismissed, on recommendation of the Court