Date of submission: January 3, 2019
Landowners of the land where the unauthorized outpost of Amona was formerly located, petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) along with Yesh Din and the heads of the villages of Ein Yabrud, Taybeh, Deir Jarir, and Silwad, to allow them to return to their privately-owned land.
Upon the evacuation of the unauthorized outpost of Amona in the winter of 2017, following an HCJ ruling, the OC Central Command issued a “demarcation order” prohibiting entry to the area where the outpost of Amona had previously been located. In an unprecedented manner, the demarcation order also prohibited the entry of Palestinians who own (registered) land there. The order was justified by the army on the grounds that it was required to maintain public order and prevent friction on the ground, yet even long after the outpost was evacuated, the denial of free access remains in place to date.
This petition demands that the demarcation order be rescinded or that it should not be applied to landowners, and that they be given free access to their land. The petition also requires that the order be enforced against Israeli citizens and that they be prevented from visiting the site.
Some of the landowners who petitioned the HCJ have struggled to return to their land for many years, and were among the petitioners who submitted the original appeal that led to the evacuation of the outpost. To their dismay, their struggle did not cease with a victory in the HCJ and the evacuation that followed after countless postponements. The existence of a demarcation order that prohibits their access further prevents them from returning to cultivate their land as they wish. They not only seek to avoid violating the order, but also fear severe enforcement measures that will undoubtedly be taken against them should they dare to do so. Previous appeals to the authorities resulted in reports that the policy of granting permits to Palestinian landowners is “very limited.”
On the other hand, Israeli citizens frequently visit the site undisturbed. For example, on Friday afternoons, settlers hold a mass prayer service, and in January 2018, there was an event marking one year since the evacuation of the outpost, with the participation of public figures. Participants of these events did not receive entry permits, yet enforcement authorities refrained from imposing the order on them — both at the time and retroactively. Last month, settlers erected two caravans in the area where the outpost was located through direct and indirect assistance from the authorities, and the support of public figures, among them Knesset members and council heads.
The fact that the order is not enforced against Israeli citizens who violate it reinforces Palestinians’ fear of friction. The evacuation of the caravans that took place a few days ago indicates that law enforcement is possible, contingent on the will and motivation of the political echelon and enforcement authorities. The lack of enforcement, especially with regard to criminal measures against those who legally transgress the order, further attests to the authorities’ decision not to address violation of the law.
Demarcation orders have been issued in the past to resist the phenomenon of illegal outposts and invasions by Israeli civilians, which often damage private Palestinian property. These orders serve as arbitrary draconian tools to prevent and restrict Palestinians from reaching their land and exercising their most basic property rights, to date.
The outpost of Amona was evacuated by way of an HCJ ruling so that the landowners could return to their land. Leaving the order in place entails that the aim of the ruling is yet to be fulfilled.
On June 21, 2020 the Court issued an order nisi, ordering the state to explain why it will not refrain from applying the demarcation order against the Palestinian landowners, and why the demarcation order would not be enforced regarding Israeli illegal construction and invasion on the land in question.
On December 29, 2020 the State submitted a response affidavit of response from the military commander in the West Bank Area. The State updated the Court saying it would extend the demarcation order for an additional year to allow for enforcement measures against settlers’ illegal construction on private Palestinian land. However, said demarcation order “would not apply to Palestinian residents”, who allegedly would be able to access the land where the outpost Amona stood, except plots where Israelis’ agricultural invasions are located and which have not been removed (to be evacuated in several months at the very earliest).
The military commander added that currently, for several plots “the procedure of granting transaction permits to companies registered in the area under Israeli owners has been completed”, but stated that the registration procedures, which would register them as property belonging to Israelis, have not yet been completed for these plots.