Why Jews Can’t Buy Land in the West Bank

Many individuals and organizations around the world accuse Israel of creating an apartheid. Interestingly, the evidence on the ground does not support such a claim. Based on what is repeated through the media, most people assume the following about purchasing land in the West Bank:

  • Assumption #1: Palestinians are restricted from buying land in the West Bank.
  • Assumption #2: They are probably subject to crazy, unjust laws and legal hoops to jump through.
  • Assumption #3: They’re always having to fight against the “occupation” to keep their homes and their land.

Let’s look at the real facts.

The Legalities of Buying Land in the West Bank

In 1948, Israel accepted the United Nations partition plan and the state of Israel was founded. The Arabs rejected the plan and went to war against the newly established state. Jordan’s Arab legion along with the local Arabs were unable to destroy the state of Israel. However, Jordan took control of east Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and it became known as the “West Bank”.

From 1948 until 1967, Jordan occupied the West Bank and set new laws for the land.  After the Six Day War in 1967, Jewish resettlement began in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.

Interestingly, because of the complicated status of this land and the number of times it has changed hands, the laws that preside over the territory today include a complex set of laws compounded through various eras.

While Arabs are exempt from many of the laws, Israeli Jews who live in the West Bank today are still subject to:

  • some Jordanian laws
  • some Ottoman Turkish laws
  • Israeli military law
  • Regular Israeli law

Jews Buying Land in the West Bank

Among the many restrictions that apply exclusively to Jews and limit their ability to purchase land in the West Bank, these are perhaps the most egregious:

  • Jews, and only Jews, are denied access to the Land Registry for this region. This is unlike any other area under Israeli jurisdiction, where land deeds and property titles can be obtained with the click of a mouse and downloaded from the government’s website. 
  • Jews, and only Jews, are required to obtain government and military approval of any property transactions (even when both the buyer and seller are Jewish) in Judea and Samaria.
  • Jews, and only Jews, are subject to a staggering array of military orders that obstruct the use of land that they have purchased in full and to which they legally own the property deed.

Discrimination Against Jewish Rights

The Regavim movement, which petitioned the Supreme Court over these discriminatory laws, stated: 

“Since the liberation of Judea and Samaria in 1967 from Jordanian occupation, land purchases for settlement by Jews were carried out according to extremely convoluted work-around procedures designed to evade the problem rather than solve it: Corporations were registered as legal entities in Judea and Samaria, for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition against sale of property to Jewish individuals , thus avoiding “the Jewish problem. This is discriminatory and the work-around “solution” has posed a major obstacle to the development of Judea and Samaria, and a major violation of Jews’ fundamental rights.”

Could Times be Changing For Jews Who Want to Buy Land in the West Bank?

The Israeli Supreme Court building in Jerusalem

In late 2018, the Ministry of Defense’s legal counsel and professional staff initiated an examination of Jordanian laws and the regulations that require Jews to receive special permits for property transactions, with an eye toward their repeal.

An official review was started during Avigdor Lieberman’s tenure as Defense Minister and continued through Naftali Bennett’s and Benjamin Netanyahu’s time in the Defense Ministry. The conclusions of the examination were finalized and it was recommended to repeal the restrictions that prohibit Jews from purchasing land. They also requested a significant easing of requirements for special land transaction permits.

Regavim petitioned the court when current Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced that he does not intend to comply with the Ministry of Defense’s recommendation, despite the approval of legal professionals and Gantz’s predecessors, Netanyahu and Bennett.

In February 2022, three Supreme Court justices issued a preliminary order against Defense Minister Gantz, and required him to present his arguments against the repeal of the law within 60 days.

Israeli attorney Boaz Arzi welcomed the newly-issued order and said:

“Our petition asked an obvious question: How is it possible in Judea and Samaria, of all the places in the world, a racist law still prohibits Jews from buying property? The High Court of Justice has demanded that the government explain why this law is still on the books, and why it is still enforced.”

Times could be changing for Jews who want to buy land in Judea and Samaria.

Drew Parsons

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