During the 1970’s, many settlements were erected in Judea & Samaria, based on Military necessity seizure orders. This was done, based on the prevalent legal doctrine which recognized settlements as a military need, assisting in the protection of security in the area. This doctrine was reaffirmed by the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), in HCJ 606/78 Job v. Minister of Defense, PD 33(2), 113 (1979), which approved the construction of Beit-El.
However, on October 22nd, 1979, the HCJ ruled in HCJ 390/79 Dwikat v. The Government of Israel, PD 34(1) 1, that the state failed to establish that a certain seizure order issued for the construction of parts of Alon Moreh, significantly contributed to the security of the area, at least not enough to justify the seizure of private properties.
In accordance with the HCJ ruling, the Israeli government, led by the then Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, decided on November 11th 1979 to continue the establishment and enlargement of existing settlements only on land owned by the state.
In turn, a need arose to identify property throughout Judea & Samaria owned by the government. Since roughly two-thirds of the land in Judea & Samaria is not registered, the ownership of these lands was established by the laws in effect in the area, mainly Ottoman law.
Accordingly, in the late 70’s – early 80’s, a delimitation project of “state lands” began. At the time, the project was headed by the then head of Civilian Affairs in the State Attorney’s Office, Attorney Plia Albeck.
The identification and delimitation was done using aerial and on site reconnaissance of the area, existing maps etc, means available at the time. The Supervisor of State and Abandoned Property signed orders, based on this work, declaring certain properties as “state lands”.
In should be mentioned that according to the Order Regarding Sate Property (Judea & Samaria) (No. 59) – 1967, such declarations are not required in order to define an area as state owned. Rather, such a declaration creates a presumption of ownership, which remains in effect as long as the opposite is not proven. The process of declaration was created as an evidentiary mean and has no constitutive effect. The declaration does not create the right, but rather serves as a declaratory measure regarding land which the local law views as state owned (HCJ 285/81 Fadil Mahmad Al-Nazar v. Commander of Judea & Samaria, PD 36(1), 701).
In turn even after a declaration is issued, anyone with sufficient proof, in accordance with the laws of the area, that a plot of land previously declared as state owned, is his private plot, may submit such evidence to the authorities (for instance, by beginning the process of land registration with regard to the specific plot).
As the years progressed, it was discovered that the delimitation of “state land” in certain areas was not exact. In turn, in 1999, the State Property Delimitation Team (more commonly known as the “Blue Line” Team) was founded, and tasked with using the more exact modern day means available, to re-apply past delimitations in the area (HCJ 8815/10 Basharat v. the High Committee of Developmental Plannings’ Sub Committee on Settlements). Exact delimitation has a substantial importance, as it influences private property and in turn, the areas’ military commanders’ duty, according to international law, to protect private property.
The “Blue Line” team includes representatives of various relevant bodies and institutions: the Supervisory Unit; the Supervisor of State and Abandoned Property; the Officer of Land Registry; the Supervisor of State and Abandoned Property in Judea & Samaria; the Central Planning Committee in Judea & Samaria; and the Judea & Samaria’s Legal adviser, which ensures the Teams’ decisions reflect the law in the area.
The “Blue Line” Teams’ work on delimiting a certain area follows a process – the concentration of all relevant facts and documents; Analysis of aerial and satellite imagery, during the relevant years, using modern day technologies; the presentation of the results and their factual and legal analysis by the members of the team.
In summation, the professional work of the “Blue Line” Team is crucial to the fulfillment of the Areas’ Military Commanders’ duties with regard to the protection of private and state property in the area.