Bid to legitimize terror victim’s West Bank outpost faces legal hurdle

Despite promises by the defense minister, Havat Gilad, much of which lies on Palestinian land, may not qualify for approval

The West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad, January 10, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The Havat Gilad outpost near Nablus in the northern West Bank may be difficult to retroactively legalize, as Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has promised to do following the deadly shooting of one of its residents, Raziel Shevach, last week by Palestinian terrorists.

Most of the land on which the illegal outpost was constructed is privately owned Palestinian property, according to the IDF’s land registrar in the West Bank, the Haaretz daily reported Wednesday.

Liberman proposed a government order earlier this week that would “establish a new settlement on Israeli-owned land in Samaria” that would include much of the Havat Gilad outpost. But, given the land’s status, that proposal may encounter significant legal problems.

Liberman’s proposal, which must be voted into force by the cabinet before it is implemented, includes a stipulation that other Israeli residents of the area living on land that isn’t theirs be relocated into the bounds of the new legal settlement. But that might not be possible given the amount of land in Havat Gilad that is Palestinian-owned, the report said.

Rabbi Raziel Shevach with his family, in an undated photo (Courtesy of the family)

The outpost was founded in 2002 on land purchased for the project by right-wing activists. But the current community of some 40 families sits on areas far larger than the original purchase, and includes land that is listed as owned by Palestinians both according to the claims of local Palestinians and according to the Israeli land registrar for the West Bank.

Furthermore, none of the buildings in the outpost, including those built on Israeli-owned land, are legal, and all have outstanding demolition orders against them, since they were built without a zoning or planning process, and without the approval of local government bodies.

Liberman submitted his proposal calling for legalizing the outpost to the cabinet on Sunday, days after one of its residents was killed in a terror attack.

Havat Gilad residents claim to have purchased the land prior to establishing the outpost. The settlers named their hilltop community after Gilad Zar, the security coordinator of the Shomron Regional Council, who was shot dead in a terror attack in 2001.

Palestinians, however, have denied the purchase, claiming that the documents were falsified.

Controversial legislation passed in February 2016 allows the Israeli government to retroactively expropriate private Palestinian land where illegal outpost homes have been built, provided that the outposts were established “in good faith” or had government support and that the Palestinian owners receive financial compensation for the land.

None of those conditions are met in Havat Gilad’s case, according to sources cited in the Haaretz report.

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