Land law in the West Bank is a mess of multi-layered legal regimes representing the complicated political history of the region. From this confusion flow some of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today, such as the legitimacy of settlements and the legality of the security barrier. Whether one's concerns regarding the “Question of Palestine” are humanitarian or political, one fact is clear: the legal muddle of land law must be addressed.
But addressing the law first requires that we understand what that law is. This paper is not an investigation of the relative legitimacy under domestic or international law of each of the innumerable changes that were made to land law over the course of multiple legal regimes. Rather, it attempts to develop a purely descriptive answer to the seemingly straightforward question: what is the state of land law? To do this, I reconstruct the law of land as much as possible, from the still-operative, sedimentary layers of Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Israeli, Palestinian and international law. In compiling this information, I hope to contribute to the efforts to fully understand where we are, so we can honestly assess where we may go from here.