Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Tuesday announced the establishment of a committee to regulate the status of lands within Jewish settlements in the West Bank. The move was agreed upon during coalition talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Shaked’s Jewish Home.
The panel, which is due to begin work in the coming days, will be headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit. Other members include Director-General of the Agriculture Ministry Shlomo Ben Eliyahu and the Defense Ministry’s legal adviser, Ahaz Ben-Ari.
Shaked, whose party supports West Bank settlement construction, said that the committee aimed to reassure settlement residents over doubts about the status of their homes, which she said were caused by confused and changing policies regarding the lands on which they were built.
“There are many areas in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] where the status is unregulated,” Shaked said. “The time has come to dispel the legal fog and to enable the residents of Judea and Samaria — most of them in settlements set up by generations of Israeli governments — to stop worrying about the constant threat to the very ownership of their homes.”
The panel intends to make recommendations to the government to formally regulate the status of lands within settlements, Shaked said.
Among the issues to be resolved is the question of which lands are considered privately held and what documentation is required to prove ownership.
The chairman of the Yesha Council of settlers, Avi Roeh, told the Hebrew-language NRG website that a lot depends not just on the team’s findings, but on its ability to implement change.
“We are definitely putting a lot of hope on this committee’s conclusions but it all depends on the breadth of authority given to the committee members,” he said.
Yesh Din, an Israeli organization working to defend the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank, condemned the development.
“Even the establishment of 100 committees won’t resolve the contradiction between the retroactive legalization of outposts and neighborhoods that were established in continual violation of the law and the rule of law,” Israeli daily Haaretz quoted the organization as saying. “The significance of a sweeping regulation is to establish a mechanism for forced land expropriation and cancellation of the property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank.”
According to the recent coalition agreement between the Likud and Jewish Home parties, “within one month of the formation of the government, a professional team is to be set up to discuss the formulation of an outline for the regulation of structures in Jewish neighborhoods in Judea and Samaria.”
The agreement also stipulated that “the team will present its findings within 60 days of being set up, and the government will act to implement them.”