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Beita and the Challenge of State Lands.

Jerusalem24 – Back in July, the Israeli settlers vacated the illegal Eviatar outpost, abiding by an unprecedented agreement struck with the government that will allow for the wildcat hilltop town to remain intact and under permanent supervision of the Israeli military, despite its unauthorized construction two months ago.

According to the agreement signed with the government, the settlers were to evacuate the outpost, Evyatar’s dozens of makeshift homes will remain intact and the Israeli military will turn the site into a military outpost.

During that time, the Israeli government, through its Civil Administration that manages the occupation of the West Bank, to carry out a survey of the land in order to determine its status. Meanwhile, the Palestinians in the neighboring towns and villages of Beita, Kablan and Yitma say the land historically belonged to them. They have been barred access of the land for decades over what the Israeli military says “security reasons.”

Last week, the Israeli news paper, Yedioth Ahranot reported that the Civil Administration completed the survey of the lands. According to the paper, it turns out that 60 Dunums of land are classified as “state land” on which a new settlement can be established.

“Many of these lands are private lands,” said Lior Amihai, Executive Director of Yesh Din; an Israeli organization working in Israel and in the West Bank during an interview on Jerusalem24‘s Wake Up Palestine. He adds, “because there is no official state in Palestine that are being governed are military laws from previous periods. They take a law from the Ottoman rule in the 19th century, that states that if a land is not cultivated for a certain amount of time it becomes state land.” According to Amihai, this interpretation of the law is new, as no one other than the government of Israel interprets the law in this manner. However, Israeli has used this interpretation to convert hundreds of thousands of Dunums of private lands into public lands.

“This has been going on since the 80’s,” says Amihai. He adds, “there are lands that are public, but these lands belong to the public. Israel and its military are referring to these lands as state lands, and they allocate these lands for settlers and settlements.”

The people of Beita had previously submitted an appeal to the Supreme Court, challenging the legality of the settlement outpost, and demanded the evacuation of it. They were told to await the completion of the survey. As of yet, the only sources to discuss the results of the survey was Yediot Ahranot.

According to the newspaper, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz must take a decision on this issue after the survey ends.

Meanwhile, the people of Beita confirmed that they will continue their non-violent resistance to the settlement plan until Israel completely withdraws from the lands. They have already submitted documents to the court that the lands have owners, however; they rejected all Palestinian documents.

“This isn’t a legal battle, this is a political battle, and a struggle over lands” says Amihai.

Mohammad Hamayel

Ramallah based journalist, Mohammad graduated from Al-Quds University with a B.A. in Media and Television. He has covered the 2015 Jerusalem Intifada as well as the Great March of Return for international media outlets. currently an editor/presenter at Jerusalem24. A UN alumni and a follower of global events and politics, especially American affairs.

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