As with other land in settlements in the West Bank, the site of the homes in question in Alei Zahav was thought to be state land based on old maps which crudely designated land boundaries based on what is now antiquated technology. A team from the Civil Administration has been reexamining the land boundaries in the West Bank and has found that some plots in West Bank settlements, including the homes in question at Alei Zahav, were built on land owned by Palestinians.
On May 14 Judge Carmi Mossek ruled that the military order containing the market overt concept applies to Alei Zahav and the residents of the land in question are fully entitled to exercise their ownership interests to the land. The judge gave the state until September to complete the technical requirements for legalizing the buildings on the plots.
Among the other recent cases in which the state has relied on the military order was one involving a dispute over the ownership of land in the northern West Bank settlement of Nili. In that case, the state’s legal counsel said that position was in accordance with a legal opinion issued by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.
The state invoked a similar argument last year before the Jerusalem District Court involving efforts to legalize the unauthorized outpost of Mitzpeh Kramim near Ramallah. The court in that case also agreed that the market overt principle applied but the facts of the case were somewhat different in that the state had been deeply involved in selecting the location of the outpost, despite the fact that the outpost was unauthorized. The dispute is now before the High Court of Justice.
The High Court also has a case pending before it challenging a law passed by the Knesset in 2017 that would retroactively legalize the seizure of some privately owned Palestinian land on which settlement construction has been built in good faith or with government encouragement. It is assumed that the High Court will strike down that law, and therefore the attorney general’s staff has looked to other legal principles that would accomplish a similar result, including the market overt principle.
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