According to the Israeli Yediot Ahronoth newspaper on Sunday, a number of families from the four settlements due for evacuation this summer had signed a petition to apply for political asylum in the Palestinian Authority.
“If the state of Israel doesn’t want us, we don’t want it,” 28-year-old settler Drori Stuan said.
“We are people who intend to carry on living in Samaria under Palestinian rule and not under Israeli rule,” said Stuan, whose family was one of the founders of the settlement which was set up in 1983 on occupied land and numbers some 75 residents.
“There are Jews everywhere in the world: in Syria, in Iraq, in Iran, in Pakistan, so we want to be Jews under Palestinian sovereignty. We are not afraid and I believe it will be good for us and we will live safely, like Jews in other parts of the world.”
Under the terms of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s so-called disengagement plan, Israel will this summer pull out occupation forces and evacuate over 8000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and four northern West Bank settlements.
Reacting to the development, the Palestinian Authority’s chief policy analyst at the Foreign Ministry, Majdi al-Khalidi, told Aljazeera.net that any citizen or foreigner was welcome to stay in the West Bank as long as they recognised the Authority’s sovereignty.
“Yes, of course the Palestinian Authority will grant residency to anyone who wishes to stay no matter what their status, as long as they respect Palestinian law.
“The Palestinian Authority will grant residency to anyone who wishes to stay no matter want their status, as long as they respect Palestinian law”
“Naturally, there is going to be a review of legal ownership of property and buildings – but the process will be carried out by a transparent legal process and not decided by force of arms,” he added.
Al-Khalidi also drew a distinction between legal claims for pre-1948 landownership in the Palestinian territories and in Israel.
“If individual Jews can prove ownership of land before Israel’s creation in a Palestinian court, their claim will be recognised. Israeli law is different in this respect.”
At present, Israel does not recognise Palestinian claims to that land owned by some 700,000 refugees who fled their home during the 1948 war.
Although al-Khalidi said he had no knowledge of such a test case as yet, Aljazeera.net has learned that at least one plot of land in Gaza – privately owned by Jews before Israel’s creation in 1948 – is about to be contested.
A 55-acre lot of land that was purchased by a Jew in 1946 is likely to prove a test case. The land was absorbed by the illegal Kfar Darom settlement after Israeli occupation forces seized Gaza in 1967.
When troopsleave Kfar Darom,
Some Palestinian officials welcome the prospect of recognising the claim, which they say may make it easier to demand respect for far larger Palestinian claims to land in what is now Israel.
“It is very important that Palestinian authorities deal with this issue properly from the very beginning even if they are talking about a small quantity of land,” Ingrid Jaradat, head of the Palestinian Badil refugee advocacy group, said.
“If we speak about land rights, they should be respected and treated the same way all over, in Palestine and in any similar case in the world where there is a conflict over land rights.”
Land ownership board
However, other Palestinian officials say it is premature to say if Jews have any legal claim today to land bought before 1948 until such time as a land tribunal has been set up and looked at all cases.
Palestinian Negotiations Minister Saeb Erekat told Aljazeera.net the Palestinian Authority plans to set up board to decide claims for the 5% of the settlement land expected to revert to private hands after Israel’s pullout.
Judges on the tribunal, he said, would rely on land registry records and private deeds to determine ownership.
Meanwhile, right-wing Jewish activists continue to protest the planned Israeli disengagement. Early on Sunday, dozens locked government offices across the country by pouring superglue into the locks.
The activists hit offices in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Bnei Brak, Herzliya, Bat Yam, and several other smaller towns across Israel.
Other offices that got glued up included the Interior Ministry, Income Tax Authority, National Insurance Institute and the Postal Authority.
Tel Aviv police said guards were able to unstick most locations, including a government office complex in central Tel Aviv, with minimal damage to property.