Knesset passes historic bill to legalize settlements on Palestinian land

Knesset passes historic bill to legalize settlements on Palestinian land

Pro-settlement groups, including parts of Israel's right-wing government, had sought to save it from demolition.

Not only has the United States traditionally viewed Israeli settlements as a barrier to peace; it has also deemed them to be illegal, a position most succinctly encapsulated by the State Department's legal adviser, who concluded in a 1978 letter to Congress that the establishment of Israeli settlements is "inconsistent with worldwide law".

A member of parliament in Netanyahu's own Likud party, Benny Begin, son of the former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, labeled it "the robbery bill".

Israel's attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has said the bill violates local and worldwide law and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court.

However, such doubts were lifted when the premier told reporters accompanying him to London on Monday that the vote would go ahead after he had coordinated with the Trump administration.

If adopted, the proposal would be seen as another step towards at least partial annexation of the West Bank, a key demand for parts of Netanyahu's rightwing cabinet, including the hardline Jewish Home party.

Under the legislation, Palestinians will be compensated for their land loss through "an annual usage payment of 125 percent of the land's value as determined by an assessment committee for renewable periods of 20 years", Haaretz wrote.

Last week, the few hundred residents of the Amona outpost in the West Bank were evicted after the Supreme Court ruled their homes were built on private Palestinian land.

The Balfour Declaration, which declared "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" on November 2, 1917, officially became part of global law when the League of Nations adopted it in 1922.


Dan Meridor, former minister of Likud, the party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote an op-ed in Haaretz calling the law "evil and unsafe", and pointing out that Palestinian land ownership has never been regulated by parliament because "the Arabs of Judea and Samaria did not vote for the Knesset, and it has no authority to legislate for them".

Emboldened by the Trump administration, the Israeli government is expanding settlement construction at an alarming new rate.

Netanyahu had on Sunday tried to delay the review of the bill, while coordinating with Trump ahead of their February 15 meeting, Israeli media reported.

Before his departure Sunday evening, Netanyahu told reporters he is "not bothered" by rumors he's hearing on the "regulation law", legislation created to prevent further destruction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria such as last week's forced evacuation of the hilltop community of Amona.

The issue of Israeli settlement building has been thrust into the foreground since the passage of a United Nations security council resolution in December, supported by the outgoing Obama administration, which condemned settlements as a "flagrant violation" of worldwide law and an obstacle to peace.

Dov Khenin of the Arab Joint List said the opposition would not cooperate with the bill's legislative process, accusing its proponents of acting counter to regulations.

Speaking before the vote, opposition leader Isaac Herzog slammed the bill and urged coalition MKs to "stop tonight's vote, which would be a disaster for the state".

Monday's contentious vote took place after Israel said it had started demolishing a small Jewish settlement deemed illegal by the Supreme Court because it was on private Palestinian land.

"They are passing a law that will endanger IDF soldiers, will endanger Israel's global standing, will endanger our being a state of law and order, because they have problems within the coalition", Lapid said.

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