HCJ 3240/15 Anata village council head v Commander of the IDF Forces in the West Bank

Petition submission date: 11.5.2015

In April 1975, the IDF and the Civil Administration decided to expropriate 30,000 dunams (7,400 acres) of land in order to build the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. While some of the areas seized were indeed used to establish the settlement and the surrounding infrastructures, part of the land was not used, and there are no known plans to use it. Despite this, the land – which is adjacent to the area known as “E1” – was included within the area of jurisdiction of the Municipality of Ma’ale Adumim and Binyamin Regional Council, and has not been returned to its legal owners.

The head of the village council of Anata, whose residents own the land in question, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) with the assistance of Yesh Din to ask that the State annul confiscation orders and return the land to the petitioners.

In addition to demanding annulment of the confiscation orders regarding the land that was not used, the petitioners also ask that all the confiscated land be removed from the area of jurisdiction of Ma’ale Adumim and Binyamin Regional Council. This demand is based on HCJ rulings stating that, in accordance with international law, confiscated land in an occupied territory must be used primarily for the benefit of the local population in the area in which the land was seized. Currently, in accordance with orders issued by the military commander, the residents of Anata and other Palestinians are prevented from making any use of this land.

The petition seeks to apply the precedents set by the HCJ, which establish that if the public purpose for which the land was confiscated ceases to exist, the confiscation is nullified and the land must be returned to its original owners. Presently, four decades after the confiscation, and since the land remains unused, there is no alternative but to return the land.

The State’s response from May 2016 claimed that the petition should be dismissed because of laches (unreasonable delay). The State also claimed that the confiscation in question fulfills its purpose and that both Israelis and Palestinians benefit from it, as Palestinians are employed in the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim’s industrial zone.

Responding to the State’s claim of laches, Yesh Din explained that it was only in recent years that it became clear that no plans had been made for public use for the confiscated land. Further, the claim that Palestinian benefit from the confiscation “is reminiscent of past regimes that no democratic state would wish to become, particularly when this claim is applied to a territory under belligerent occupation.”

In an additional response submitted by the State, it claimed that the separation between the different areas of the territory that underwent expropriation cannot be done and that the development of the territory not yet described is part of the original expropriation. Furthermore, the State claimed that the agricultural takeover of parts of the land was done in good faith and is protected – despite the circumstances being unclear.

On January 7, 2019 the Supreme Court dismissed the petition.

Petition status: dismissed