In December 2014, the High Court of Justice determined that the unauthorized outpost of Amona must be evacuated within two years, since all the structures there were built illegally and without permits on private Palestinian land. Due to substantial political pressure by the residents of the outpost and right-wing entities, a series of recommendations were raised to prevent its evacuation, or at least to attempt to render it meaningless.
In August 2016, four months ahead of the evacuation date, the Civil Administration published a map that includes 35 plots located inside and around the Amona outpost, some just a few meters from its original location, in the context of examining the option of declaring them ‘abandoned property” in order to have them transferred to the outpost’s structures. The order concerning abandoned property (Hebrew) determines that an abandoned property is a property whose legal owner left the area before, during or after June 7, 1967. A piece of property that has an authorized holder or that has heirs who are located in the area is not considered an abandoned property. Therefore, proof of ownership of land of these plots thwarts the advancement of the proposed plan.
As opposed to the Absentee Property Law, which apples to Israeli territory, the order does not nullify the ownership over the abandoned property, and upon the return of the owner to the area, they are authorized to use the property. As such, ownership of the property cannot be passed on, but only rented or leased. Even this has various restrictions that stem from the obligation to manage the property for the owner, and no changes can be made to the property until they return.
Since the order refers to temporary holding of territory until the owner returns, the Ministry of Justice’s policy since the 1980’s has been that abandoned properties cannot be used for the establishment of Israeli settlements. This policy was determined by Attorney Plia Albeck, who served as the head of the Civil Department of the State Attorney’s Office. She worked diligently to find a legal justification for the continued settlement enterprise.
At the start of September 2016, landowners from Silwad, Ein Yabrud and Taybeh submitted their opposition, with the assistance of Yesh Din, to the suggested declaration of two thirds of the plots examined. In addition, the Civil Administration was provided with aerial photos that prove that the vast majority of plots were cultivated continuously since the 1980’s and 1990’s, until the outpost was established.
On January 16, 2017 the head of the Silwad Village Council and the landowners of plots 28, 29, 30 and 54 submitted to the head of the Civil Administration on Monday their objections to the implementation of the dissolution of partnership on the four plots adjacent to the unauthorized outpost of Amona, to which the government plans to relocate the residents of the unauthorized outpost.
In addition to the objection, a group of Palestinian landowners and an Israeli citizen, who own land in plots 28, 29, 30 and 54 submitted their objection to the decision to declare the plots as abandoned property.
Employing the legal tool of dissolution of partnership, the objection states, contravenes international law and the local Jordanian law that applies in the West Bank. Using it is a violation of the property rights of Palestinian landowners and seizes their property without any justification and does not enable them to utilize their land. This step also constitutes a breach of international agreements Israel has signed on to, and could push the landowners to turn to the International Court of Arbitration – in accordance with the directives of the agreements on the protection of investments that Israel has committed to.