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"Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria"  (1 Kings 21 )

For the Common Good

Military Expropriation Orders in the West Bank, 1967-2022

This report is the first of its kind dedicated to examining the land expropriation orders for “public purposes” issued by the Israeli military in the West Bank since June 1967 – a total of 313, covering an area of some 74,000 dunams.

Israel’s authority to expropriate West Bank lands for public purposes derives from Article 43 of the Hague Regulations, which obligates it, as an occupying power, to secure order and public life in the occupied territory. In practice, these orders have been issued based on the 1953 Jordanian Land Law, which Israel, as an occupying power, is required to uphold. Expropriation orders are usually permanent orders that transfer the ownership of the expropriated land to the state in return for financial compensation. Together with this expropriation procedure, Israel uses additional legal mechanisms to transfer lands in the West Bank from their Palestinian owners to the state, and from there, all too often to the hands of settlers. The most important of these are “seizure orders” for security purposes, which the state claims to be temporary as they are a safety necessity, and declarations of “state lands”, based on Israel’s far-reaching interpretation of the 1858 Ottoman Land Law. This report focuses exclusively on expropriation orders for public purposes. 

As a point of departure, this document acknowledges that all Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal, as they violate the law that prohibits an occupying power from transferring its inhabitants to the occupied territory. This prohibition is derived primarily from the understanding that the transfer of a civilian population inevitably creates a conflict of interest between the occupying power’s duty to ensure the wellbeing of the local population subjected to military rule and its desire to ensure that of the settler population in the occupied territory. This document demonstrates that this conflict of interest is clearly reflected in the considerations behind most of the expropriation orders.

The conclusion of this study is evident: under the guise of its legal obligation to ensure the wellbeing of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, Israel has nevertheless expropriated extensive areas of land to promote the settlement project beginning in 1967. In some cases, it has done so while completely and blatantly ignoring its duty to ensure that the expropriated area is for the use of the Palestinian population, and in other, more sophisticated cases, it has done so by creating a dependency between the mutual interests of both Palestinian and settler populations.

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