Juridical Control and the Israeli Civil Administration

Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza was based on a strategy of enhancing the dependency of the occupied territories on Israel's economy through an elaborate system of political and juridical control. The Israeli Military Government (MG), and since 1981 the Civil Administration (CA), acquired immense powers over the lives of residents in the occupied territories beginning with the first week of occupation in 1967. Military Order no. 2 (June 7, 1967) concentrated these powers in the hands of the Military Governor:

"All powers of government, legislation, appointment and administration in relation to the Area or its inhabitants shall henceforth be vested in me alone and shall be exercised by me or whoever shall be appointed by me to that end or acting on my behalf" (Article 3(A)).14

Since 1981 the bulk of these powers have been transferred to the head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank and Gaza. Although ostensibly the MG and the CA formally assumed the powers vested in the hands of the Jordanian District Commissioner (before 1967) and the Egyptian military governor of the Gaza District, in fact there was a qualitative difference in the manner in which the Israelis exercised these powers. The shift lies in the conscious and systematic method the Israelis undertook to subordinate the economy of the two regions to the needs of the Israeli state, and - more significantly - in the appropriation of public land (and substantial private properties) to serve the needs of the Jewish Settlement Councils in the occupied territories.

Raja Shehadeh in his Occupier's Law (2nd ed. 1988) outlines four legislative stages in the consolidation of Israel's juridical control over the West Bank and Gaza. These were based on a succession of over 1,200 military orders regulating all aspects of daily life in the territories. In the first stage (1967-1971) the military government established its control over transactions of immovable property, the use of water and other natural resources, the power to expropriate land, and the authority to operate banks and over the regulation of municipal and village councils. In this period, also, the system of control over the movement of individuals was established (identity cards, travel permits, driving licenses, and licenses for professional practices).15

The second phase (1971-1979), was primarily aimed at the transfer of Arab lands to the control of Jewish settlement councils. This involved amending Jordanian land laws to facilitate zoning 'public' lands to the benefit of Israeli bodies, and for acquisition of local land by 'foreign' (i.e. Israeli) companies.16

The third phase of Israeli legislation (1979-1981), involved the transfer of authority and power from the Military Government to the newly established Civil Administration, and the extension of Israeli law to apply to Jewish settlers so that they will not be subject to the jurisdiction of West Bank (and Gaza) courts.17

The fourth phase of legislation (1981 to the present), marked the consolidation of Israeli-Jewish control over expropriated areas. Those, by 1991, constituted more than 60% of the total land area of the occupied territories. In this period, furthermore, Military Orders concentrated on the regulation of the fiscal policies governing the West Bank and Gaza, particularly those pertaining to the collection of taxes and revenue, and of the flow of funds to the territories.18

The net effect of these military laws has been to create two systems of legal bodies (one applying to Israeli Jews, and the other to native Palestinians), with a gradual transformation of zoning laws, regional planning, the transfer of land acquisitions to the benefit of the former national group, and to the detriment of the latter.19


al@mashriq                       960715