The State of Palestine or Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is a country in Western Asia located between the Mediterranean Sea, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The Palestinian territory is composed of two enclaves: the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The West Bank is bordered by Jordan to the east, and Israel to the north, south, and west. The Gaza Strip borders the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Egypt to the south, and Israel to the north and east.
OPT has a total land area of 6,026 km2 which can be classified as built-up land (approximately 7 per cent); forest, shrubs and vegetation (approximately 0.1 per cent); and agricultural land (approximately 37 per cent).
OPT is home to some 5.23 million people, of which 3.12 million live in the West Bank and the remaining 2.11 million live in the Gaza Strip. Two out of five Palestinians living in Palestine are refugees, and 96 per cent of the refugee camps’ residents are urban. The urban population in Palestine today is estimated at 77 per cent (excluding urban refugee camps that reach 8 per cent of the population) and considered among the highest in the region. population density is 1,333 inhabitants per squared kilometer.
The spatial and administrative division inside the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is considered the greatest challenge facing the Palestinian cities and communities. The Palestinian agricultural sector plays a key role for the country’s economic growth, as well as enabler of social development and environmental sustainability. However, Israel’s restrictions on economic and productive activities, including restrictions on the movement of people and goods, and lack of access to land, water and other natural resources severely impair the Palestinian economy and its potential for growth.
Overview of OPT’s land-related situation
Land tenure – Land holdings in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are still regulated by the Ottoman Land Code of 1858, as amended and developed by legislation passed during the Jordanian regime, the British Mandate, the Egyptian administration and by the military orders issued since the Israeli occupation. According to the Land and Water Settlement Commission (LWSC), only 38 per cent of the land in West Bank is currently registered, with a significant portion of unregistered properties remaining in the urban centers, while in the Gaza Strip, over 90 per cent of land is already registered. Land registration in the OPT is carried out through Systematic Land Registration (SLR) and new registration. However, land registration was interrupted by the war of 1967, and systematic land registration and new registration were both halted until the establishment of LWSC in 2016; since then, the LWSC has increased land settlement completion from 34 to 57 per cent, allowing for the increase of land registration.
Land value – In the West Bank, the basis for property valuation is mainly found in the Jordanian law no.11 of 1954 “Tax on Buildings and Lands in the Region of Municipalities and Local Council” as amended, and in the Land Tax law no.30 of 1955 which imposed taxation on lands outside the borders of municipalities. In the Gaza Strip, the basis for property valuation is found in Law no.42 of 1940 “Properties Inside the Cities Tax” issued by the British High Commissioner to Palestine; and a unified valuation system is currently being developed.
Land use – The current Palestinian Land Use Classification System was developed in accordance with the land use classification system adopted by the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) which depends on methods and sources used to produce land use data, such as administrative records and analysis of aerial and satellite images. The classes used in this classification system are almost the same as the land use classes available in the OPT.
Land development – In 2015, the Palestinian Authority (PA) with support from UN-Habitat, UNDP and other development partners created a National Spatial Plan 2050 (NSP) which defines a long-term vision for comprehensive development with optimal use of available and potential resources while ensuring environmental security and sustainable development. The NSP links both spatial and developmental planning and captures a broad perspective framework: economy, urban development, infrastructure, demography, international relations, services and natural resources. Currently, the PA, with support from UN-Habitat and the European Union are developing the National Urban Policy for Palestine.
Land dispute resolution – In Palestine land disputes are resolved mainly by formal means such as court litigations and administrative decisions, or by the formal alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. Additionally, informal justice in Palestine refers to the settlement of disputes between litigants outside state courts or the formal justice system or the formal alternative dispute resolution system. Tribal conciliation is the main form of this informal or customary disputes resolution mechanism in Palestine. Land settlement by LWSC plays a constructive role in resolving land related disputes in the West Bank.
In 2021, UN-Habitat and the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) conducted a baseline study, as part of a broader regional work, aiming at reviewing land-related policies, laws, and institutional frameworks in the country. The study analyses and assesses existing land governance mechanisms and gaps to inform decision-making processes and stakeholders in the land sector.
Since 2019, UN-Habitat, in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and LWSC, and with financial support from the European Union, are implementing a four-year project to “Achieving Planning and Land Rights in Area C, West Bank”, targeting 181,299 beneficiaries, 83,837 of whom are females, in 74 Palestinian communities across the West Bank.
UN-Habitat supports the PA within the framework of the Road Map for Reforming Palestinian Land Sector of 2017 and is the Technical Advisor for the Land Management and Administration Sector Working Group under the Local Aid Coordination Secretariat, chaired by the Palestinian Land Authority (the national lead on land issues) and the World Bank.
Key documents and links
- List/links of the main documents, reports, publications, articles
Ministry of Local Government and UN-Habitat (2021), “State of Palestine: Progress in the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda”
- List/links of main event in the country
- Link to Partner webpage, website
 Ministry of Local Government (2017) Raw Data
 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (2020) Raw Data
 Land and Water Settlement Commission(2022) Raw Data