Gantz nixes plan to allow Jews to privately buy land in Judea and Samaria

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Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz. (File).

The initiative, backed by his own Defense Ministry, would have significantly eased real-estate deals in the region.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has told the Supreme Court that he is not going to follow through on a plan to allow private Jewish citizens to buy land in Judea and Samaria, Haaretz reported Monday.

The reason for nixing the initiative, a source in the Defense Ministry told the paper, was that

“This will lead to irresponsible purchases by Jews and will be a ‘finger in the eye’ for the Palestinian Authority.”

On the other hand, “So long as the law is in place and purchases of land in Judea and Samaria area restricted to companies which we recognize and we have ties with, the ministry can handle this,” the source said.

A Jordanian law still in effect in the region – even though Israel won the territory back from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War – says that the only individuals who could purchase land there are Jordanians, Palestinians or “foreigners of Arab origin.”

Instead of cancelling the law, in the 1970s Israel created a workaround. Jews could buy real estate there if they work through companies and receive permission from the Civil Administration, a Defense Ministry department that deals with civil issues in Judea and Samaria.

Companies were promptly established for this purpose, but the bureaucratic hoops that prospective land-owners have to jump through make it a long and expensive process.

The removal of the impediment had been brought to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit for approval in 2019, with discrimination being a major reason for considering the change.

“The ban on real estate deals on the basis of ethnicity raises certain discomfort,” wrote Maj. Zvi Mintz, head of the IDF’s legal consultation department for Judea and Samaria, in his opinion on the subject that Haaretz reported at the time. He added that the legal modification could be made on the basis of one of the articles of the Geneva Convention that permits the cancellation of racist or discriminatory legislation.

There was also a way to deal with the international law stating that in areas under military law, only regulations that help the “local populace” may be enacted. According to the Hebrew daily, Mintz wrote that the attorney-general could legally define the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria as such.

Defense Ministry legal eagles went even further than Mintz. While he still wanted the Civil Administration to approve every land deal, Hannah Weingott and Hanan Arbel wrote that “The need to receive an approval is meant to prevent land purchases by hostile entities.”

Therefore, when there was no question regarding the loyalty of the buyers, they said such approval shouldn’t be necessary.

Regavim, the group that had appealed to the court to force the Defense Ministry to implement its own staff’s recommendations, slammed Gantz for the move.

“After generations, the Ministry of Defense finally realized that there was no moral, legal or professional justification for upholding the racist Jordanian law,” Regavim head Meir Deutsch said.

“Gantz’s decision to freeze the amendment of the law, contrary to the position of the professional echelon, and the position of previous defense ministers Lieberman, Netanyahu and Bennett, is extremely worrying.

“The current law is a racist law that exists only in one place in the world, here in Israel.”

(World Israel News).

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