Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Stacy Howlett

First Page



As the birth pangs of an emerging Palestinian state rage on, one question bars settlement, reconciliation, and peace: who is entitled to the land? On a macrocosmic level, this question has and will be answered through diplomatic negotiations, political pressure, and violence. The microcosmic question of the disposition of private property, however, must be taken into consideration before any lasting peace agreement can be reached.

The rights and interests of Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlers with respect to the land they have an interest in must be balanced with national needs for territorial continuity and peace. By tracing the transfer of private land from Arabs to Jews in the past 100 years, and by examining the law governing occupied territories, current treaties, and humanitarian law, one can suggest where title should rest.

This note argues that in most cases Palestinians have superior rights to land taken from them since the birth of Israel. Simply giving this land back to Palestinians, however, is not a viable option because it would cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of the state of Israel. Instead, Palestinians with property rights should be compensated for their property and for the inability to exercise their right to return.