Passage of bill to evacuate one settler site while retroactively recognizing others meets with condemnation from U.N. and U.S.
By Peter Beaumont / The Guardian
December 5, 2016
“Today, the Israeli Knesset shifted from a path to establish a Palestinian state to a path of extending sovereignty to Judea and Samaria [as Israel calls the occupied Palestinian territories]. Let there be no doubt: the regulation bill is what will spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty.”
— Naftali Bennett, Israeli Minister of Education and Minister of Diaspora Affairs
“[The legislation] has the objective of protecting illegal settlements built on private Palestinian property in the West Bank. It is a very worrying initiative. I encourage Israeli legislators to reconsider such a move, which would have far-reaching legal consequences across the occupied West Bank.”
— Nickolay Mladenov, U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
Israel’s parliament has voted to retroactively legalize thousands of illegitimate settler homes in outposts built on private Palestinian land, in a highly controversial move described by critics as a “land grab.” The measure, which passed in a stormy Knesset session late on Monday, has been met with international condemnation, and has already strained relations within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing rightwing coalition.
It comes in sharp defiance of a call on Sunday by the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, who urged Israel again to rein in the construction of settlements on West Bank land.
Israeli critics and Palestinians have described the legislation as a land grab that would further distance prospects for a two-state solution to end the long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some high-profile political supporters, echoing that view, celebrated the vote by saying it opened the way to annexation of the West Bank and the end of any prospect of a Palestinian state.
According to estimates by opponents — including the prominent anti-occupation group Peace Now — the new law, if finally approved, would effectively annex 55 illegal outposts and approximately 4,000 housing units in settlements and illegal outposts.
The vote follows weeks of fierce debate. Netanyahu warned at one point that the legislation could put Israel’s political leaders in the dock of the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
The bill passed its first reading by 60 votes to 49, and still has to pass a further three votes before becoming law. During the debate, the opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, fiercely denounced the law by equating its adoption to “national suicide.” While the bill seems likely to have support to pass its further readings, it appears inevitable that it will be challenged in court.