Proposed Israel law “gives green light to theft of Palestinian land” – UN expert

Press Release
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Amona outpost. (Picture: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

Amona outpost. (Picture: Noam Moskowitz/Flash90)

GENEVA (21 November 2016) – A proposed Israeli law enabling the confiscation of privately owned Palestinian land would deal another severe blow to hopes of a lasting peace, a United Nations human rights expert has warned.

Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk said he was deeply concerned at the proposal to legalize more than 100 illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank, which passed its first reading in the Knesset on 16 November.

“Unauthorized outposts, most of which have been established on private Palestinian land and are located deep within the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under Israeli domestic law. Their retroactive ‘legalization’ will be another nail in the coffin for the two-state solution,” said Mr. Lynk.

“These outposts undermine the Palestinian right to self-determination, violate their rights to property, freedom of movement and development, and continue to confine the Palestinians into smaller and smaller cantons of non-contiguous lands within their own territory.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that the draft legislation, if adopted, allows the Israeli state to appropriate private Palestinian lands on which the outposts have been built, thereby regularising them for use by Israeli settlers. Lynk emphasized that international law prohibits the occupying power from confiscating private property. Even the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled on a number of occasions that the confiscation of private Palestinian lands for settlement purposes was illegal under Israeli law.

“The Knesset should not be giving the green light to theft by changing the law,” he said.

Mr. Lynk also noted that the violation of international law was not lessened or mitigated by the bill’s proposed measures to compensate Palestinians whose land had been unlawfully taken.

The tabling of the draft law follows a recent Israeli Supreme Court ruling that the Amona outpost must be evacuated by 25 December, rejecting a request by the Israeli Government for it to be delayed. “Among the purposes of this legislation is to regularize the legal status of Amona,” said the Special Rapporteur.

Mr. Lynk noted with alarm that some senior Israeli cabinet ministers had not only supported the bill, but were openly calling for the annexation of large parts of the West Bank.

“The international community must be very clear with the Government of Israel,” he said. “The annexation of occupied territory likewise would be a profound breach of international law. If Israel proceeds with either step, the international community must be prepared not only to condemn the action, but also to adopt appropriate measures to reverse these violations.”

Mr. Lynk, whose mandate as a Special Rapporteur covers the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, stressed that all Israeli settlements and outposts in occupied land were illegal under international law.

“An occupying power is expressly prohibited from transferring its civilian population into an occupied territory. This violates the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, and is contrary to numerous United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, as well as a major advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice in 2004,” he said.