Prior to the Israeli force’s entry into Judea & Samaria (“the area“) in 1967, the area contained cities, villages and municipalities, created by British or Jordanian Law. Examples are the village of Dharia and the nearby city of Tul-Karem, both in the Tul-Karem area.

Upon the Israeli force’s entry, in accordance with article 43 of Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land of 1907 (the Hague regulations), the authority of the ruler passed to the military commander of the area and he is tasked with ensuring security and public order.

Till 1979 the military commander founded Israeli settlements in the area using military seizure orders, in accordance with his mandate to ensure security and public order. However, in 1979 the Israeli High Court of Justice ruled, in HCJ 390/79 Dwikat v. State of Israel, that the security purpose cited for the establishment of Alon Moreh was only a secondary purpose, therefore the seizure of property for Alon Moreh’s establishment, was not in accordance with the military commander’s mandate.

In turn on November 11th, 1979, the Israeli government decided that future settlements would be established on land, deemed by the law of the area to be state managed land and not on land seized for military purposes.

Today, in order to establish a settlement there is a need for a governmental decision in a similar manner to the establishment of settlements within Israel. After a decision is reached, the military commander sets the boundaries of the settlement within which the relevant council may operate.

Also in 1979, along with the growth of the Israeli Population in the area, a need for a new legal framework to govern the Israeli population arose. In turn, the military commander enacted military orders, which allowed the creation of regional and local councils in the area.

Thus, the Regional Council Governance Order (Judea & Samaria) (No’ 783)  of 1979 and the Local Council Governance Order (Judea & Samaria)(No’ 831)  of 1981, were enacted.

The purpose of the orders was to allow, among other things, the military commander to enact regulations in the various councils, through which he can apply various Israeli special norms to the residents of the councils. The importance of this was to allow the Israeli resident of the area to maintain a uniform code of conduct to that of an Israeli citizen residing in Israel proper. (For more on the application of Israeli law to the residents of the Israeli councils please turn to previous summaries, specifically regarding “The law of the enclaves”).

In accordance with the aforementioned orders, two main regulations were passed: The Regional Council’s Regulations (Judea & Samaria) of 1979 and the Local Council’s Regulations (Judea & Samaria) of 1981.

The regional and local councils of the area are similar to the municipal councils in Israel proper, with necessary adjustments made to suit there presence in an area under belligerent occupation. The councils are statutory corporations limited in their scope and purposes to what the law defines. The authority of the councils is limited to issues directly affecting the residents in its boundaries, as specifically allowed by law (see HCJ 10104/04 Peace Now v. Ruth Joseph et. al.).

The aforementioned boundaries are set by the council orders. In general a regional council’s boundaries, also known as the council’s area of jurisdiction, is all state managed land and land seized by the state within an area delineated by the order which created the council, with the exclusion of areas closed by military order.

The original purpose of this rule was to grant jurisdiction in all state lands, however the councils received jurisdiction also over the areas seized prior to 1979 in order to grant jurisdiction over settlements established on seized areas prior to the aforementioned 1979 HCJ ruling.

Beginning in 1979 and throughout the 80’s, various regional councils were established in the area: the Samaria Regional Council, the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, the Megilot Regional Council, the Gush Etzion Regional Council, the Mount Hebron Regional Council and the Jordan Valley Regional Council. Each regional council contains settlements which are a smaller municipal entity, a local council.

On the other hand, a local council’s boundaries are the specific area delineated by the order which created the local council.

Examples of local councils in the area are: Ariel, Maale Adumim, Beitar Ilit, Modiin Ilit, Beit-El, Alfei Menashe etc.

The day to day life of residents in the regional councils and the settlements under their jurisdiction, is similar in many matters to that of residents in regional and local councils in Israel.

For instance, a special district court for the residents of the area’s councils along with a court of appeals was created in Jerusalem and museums and colleges were founded. In order to fund these institutions, municipal taxes are collected from the council’s residents, according to orders similar to the laws which apply in Israel.

Insofar as construction goes, the special zoning commissions which operate alongside the councils have inspection authority in each council’s boundary and construction approval authority with regard to construction plans approved after 1967, meaning plans approved and published by the high planning commission and not plans issued by the Jordanian or British governments.

With regard to zoning, the special zoning commission must be consulted. Only after its recommendation is received may the area’s high council advance a new zoning plan. The special zoning commission’s opinion is not binding, but is considered a yardstick by which an ultimate decision will be measured.