Israel recognises illegal settlement on private Palestinian land
An Israeli court given legal recognition to a settlement built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank for the first time, according to AFP.
The Mitzpe Carmit settlement lies close to the Palestinian Authority's administrative centre Ramallah, and established in the late 1990s on land owned by Palestinians with title deeds recognised by the Israeli authorities.
The owners of the land went to Israeli courts to have the settlers evicted from their land, but the Jerusalem district court ruled in favour of the illegal settlement.
They said the settlement - which is home to several dozen families - was created with the consent of the Israeli authorities and that the settlers had settled there "in good faith", without knowing the land was privately owned.
This is despite Israel's occupation of the West Bank and settlements on the Palestinian land being illegal under international law.
Today, the settlement close to Ramallah is home to several dozen families.
The ruling could still be appealed, but if that fails, it could serve as a precedent for the legal recognition of settlements established without permission from the Israeli authorities or occupying land privately owned by Palestinians.
There is no distinction among the international community between different types of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories Israel occupies, seeing them all as illegal.
Israeli settlers on public radio welcomed the ruling, which was slammed by activists and left-wing politicians.
The ruling shows "the property rights of Palestinians aren't equal to those of Jews and that the government is no longer obliged to respect private property," said MP Michal Rozin, a member of the left-wing Meretz Party.
Most of the international community sees Israel's West Bank settlements as illegal and as one of the main obstacles to peace, although Israel views them as legal and continues to allow their expansion.
Israel illegally occupied the West Bank in 1967 and has pursued a policy of settlement on these territories to fragment the land and make it difficult for Palestinians to establish a state in the future.
More than 400,000 Israeli settlers live in the territory alongside more than 2.5 million Palestinians.