Private Property and Public Power in the Occupied West Bank
6 European Property Law Journal 122-141 (2017)
20 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2016 Last revised: 1 Sep 2017
Date Written: December 17, 2016
Does an Occupying Power have a duty to protect private property rights of protected persons against acts of its own citizens? What is the extent of such a duty? This paper argues that under belligerent occupation, land disputes between individuals of both sides of the conflict are not a private matter even if the Occupying Power has no direct interest in the object of dispute. Accordingly, the Occupying State has a duty to protect the private rights of the civilians under its control, and to address such private disputes as a matter of public order. The paper discusses this claim based on recent developments in the formation of land disputes between Israelis and Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank. Until the 1990s Israel’s de-facto annexation of the West Bank’s land (although not the people) was manifested, most prominently, by establishing Israeli settlements over land identified as public property. Following the Oslo accords, a shift has occurred, when Israeli settlers, in a bottom-up process, began to cultivate private Palestinian lands and consequentially claim title based on their adverse possession. The political conflict was transferred from the public arena to the private one. The paper evaluates Israel’s response to these developments and considers the applicable legal standards.
Keywords: Property, West Bank, Israel-Palestine Conflict, Land, Private-Public Distinction
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