At the start of the 1980’s the authorities in Judea & Samaria began declaring the state of ownership of certain lands, which the local law already defined as governmental, as state-owned lands. This declaration was intended to clarify these particular lands’ status, removing doubts regarding their ownership.
The need to use such declarations stems from the fact that most lands in Judea & Samaria are not registered (e.g., not mentioned in a land registry, stating the current ownership status).
It should be noted, that such declarations do not change the actual ownership of land. The declaration is simply a procedure of notifying the public regarding the authorities’ assessment and intent to seize possession of the governmental property. Such a declaration does not constitute a confiscation or an annexation of land; the declaration simply publicizes the status of land, which is defined under the region’s law as governmental property.
The Israeli High Court of Justice addressed this matter in HCJ 285/81, Al-Nazer v. Military Commander of Judea & Samaria, and more recently in HCJ 2676/09, Tzidki Mohammed Abu Kamel et. al. v. the Supervisor of Governmental Property in Judea & Samaria.
In these proceedings, the HCJ emphasized that the declaration procedure do not change the status of land ownership, a status defined by the local law which was in effect when the IDF applied its authority in the region of Judea and Samaria. Rather, it simply serves as a declaration on the presumed ownership, a presumption which can later be challenged by any proof of ownership by any individual.
Prior to any such declaration, a full and meticulous examination of the pertaining facts is done by the relevant professional representatives of the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. During this examination, aerial photos are examined, surveys of the land are undertaken, and all other available information regarding the land is considered. The results of the examination are accompanied by a specific legal opinion regarding the ownership status.
After such examination, if it is concluded that a certain area is indeed governmental property, the Supervisor of Governmental Property in Judea & Samaria may publicize a declaration, that the land is a part of the region’s governmental property. Anyone who claims that such a declaration infringes on their rights may appeal to the Military Appeals Committee, within 45 days, and may have an opportunity to prove, that the property was not in fact governmental property.
It should be noted that in any case, the No. 145 decision of the Israeli government, reached as a result of the High Court’s decision in HCJ 390/79, Dwikat v. State of Israel, allows for settlements to be established only on governmental property and not on property seized or confiscated from the residents of Judea & Samaria.