News from Peace Now's (Israel) Settlement Watch:
Following our exposure regarding the possible establishment of a settlement in Hebron's "Plugat Hamitkanim"
military base, below is new information uncovered in the past 24 hours.
1. It appears that former Defense Minister, Moshe Ya'alon, approved the allocation of a portion of the land where the military base is located to the Ministry of Housing. The Housing Ministry is now preparing a plan to build 28 housing units in the area. If implemented, the plan would increase the number of settlers in Hebron by approximately 100 (an increase of over 10% to the settler population in the city). The planning process at the Civil Administration's High Planning Committee has not yet begun.
2. A legal opinion of the Legal Advisor of the Civil Administration on West Bank issues from 2007 states that it is forbidden to establish a settlement in this area of the base, and yet the Netanyahu government approved the planning of 28 housing units there. The legal opinion, written by Brigadier General Sharon Afek (who now serves as the Military Advocate General), dealt with the question of the residence of six families of settlers in the military base of "Plugat Hamitkanim" in the heart of Hebron. The legal opinion states that it is forbidden to allocate the land, which was owned by Jews before 1948 and therefore is now considered as government property) to settlers, since the land is leased to the Hebron municipality in a protected lease agreement. According to the legal advisor, revoking the right of the Hebron Municipality as protected tenants is illegal, and therefore, once the security necessity is no longer relevant and the military base is no longer needed there, the land must go back to the Hebron Municipality. According to the legal opinion, the only way for the six families of settlers to continue residing in the area, was through a military seizure order and not through the allocation of the lands for them. (While settling on land seized for military purposes is illegal according to the High Court verdict of Alon More from 1979, the settling of the six families despite of that was permitted due to procedural issues and there was never a verdict on this matter in court.) In the current case, despite this 2007 legal opinion the Netanyahu government chose to allocate the land used by the military base for the planning of the settlement.
The Ministry of Justice, commenting on the story in the Army Radio, stated that the change in the legal stance resulted from an internal discussion in which is was made clear that "essentially the protected tenancy ended in the area, and that on the face of this there are extenuating circumstances on the matter."
It is important to note that the reason for stopping the protected tenancy was the military and security need for establishing a military base in the area. Today the intention is to use the land for a settlement rather than for a security need. The argument that the right of the Hebron Municipality for protected tenancy has ended is essentially a way of turning the military seizure order to a land expropriation.
Peace now: The government invests massive efforts into establishing a settlement in Hebron out of all places, the city where the daily reality of the occupation is the harshest and the most disgraceful. The only thing that changed since the previous legal opinion is the strengthening of the Israeli right wing. We are witnessing a worrying process of the loosening of legal standards in favor of settlement expansion, including by the legal system itself, which cannot withstand the pressure coming from the government. The government can still prevent the establishment of this new settlement in Hebron, and stop letting the most extreme settlers risk Israel's future.
From the legal opinion: "from a property perspective the area is a property of the government ("Jewish lands"), run by the Custodian's Office, but there are protective tenancy rights to the Hebron Municipality. This tenancy was never ended through a judcial decree, as needed according to the Jordanian Law, and based on the position of the Ministry of Justice today, there is doubt if it can be ended in the foreseeable future. Thus, a military seizure order is needed in order to use the area."
Read the previous post on this here.