State invokes controversial new law to defend illegal West Bank outpost

In response to High Court petition against Adei Ad settlement, government points to legislation that expropriates private Palestinian land if settlers are already living on it

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A family walking in the Adei Ad outpost on November 27, 2003. (Flash90 )
A family walking in the Adei Ad outpost on November 27, 2003. (Flash90 )

The State Attorney’s Office on Monday invoked a controversial law passed in the Knesset last week, telling the High Court of Justice that the new legislation must be taken into consideration when deciding the fate of an outpost cited in a petition filed by Palestinian landowners.

Referring to the Regulation Law, which serves to legalize outpost settlements built on private Palestinian land, state attorneys said that “the implications of this law need to be examined” regarding structures in the Adei Ad outpost in the Shilo settlement bloc outside Ramallah in the central West Bank.

The law, passed Monday night 60-52, retroactively legalizes some illegal settlement outposts built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank, if the settlers living on the land can prove they built their homes in good faith or received government support such as the provision of water and electricity.

Palestinians whose land is appropriated under the law will receive monetary compensation or an alternate plot elsewhere.

A number of Palestinian and left-wing Israeli NGOs have already petitioned the High Court of Justice to overturn the law, saying it legalizes the theft of Palestinian land. The law is widely expected to be struck down, with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit saying he cannot defend it in court.

There are six buildings in Adei Ad that were erected on land that doesn’t belong to the state and another building that is partially on state land. The outpost is home to some 60 families.

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The Yesh Din rights group, which filed the petition against Adei Ad on behalf of Palestinian landowners, said the state’s reply to the court contained “all unacceptable practices that Israel employs in illegal construction in West Bank. Instead of the state enforcing the law and evacuating the outpost, it acts to announce more and more land as state land.”

Adei Ad was was set up in 1998 as a wildcat outpost without official government approval, partially on land allegedly owned by residents of the Palestinian villages of Turmus Ayya, Al-Mughayyir, Qaryut, and Jalud.

Activists say Israel has quietly allowed dozens of outposts to remain in the West Bank, razing homes only when forced to by the court.

Earlier this month, bulldozers tore down the nearby Amona outpost, the largest in the West Bank, following a protracted legal battle and two-day evacuation operation.

The petition against Adei Ad, filed in 2014, called for all of the buildings in community to be emptied and not just those on private Palestinian land, claiming the outpost has become a focal point of criminal activity, violence and disruption of the human rights of the Palestinians in the area, Yesh Din said.

Following the petition, the Attorney General’s Office in September 2015 informed the High Court of the government’s intention to legalize the outpost.

The outpost had previously gained international media attention in January 2015 when residents threw stones at American consular officials during a visit made to the West Bank to investigate claims of damage to Palestinian agricultural property.

In August of that year, homes in Adei Ad were raided as part of a crackdown of Jewish terrorists following the July 31 firebombing of a home in Duma, located a kilometer from Adei Ad, which killed three members of the Dawabshe family. Jewish extremists have been charged in the attack.

Raoul Wootliff and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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