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Israel parliament set to vote on settlements bill

07 February 2017

Israel has passed a controversial bill that drew condemnation from the government's own top lawyer legalising thousands of settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Additionally, Palestinian owners of land where settlements were constructed "in good faith or at the state's instruction" may be denied rights to the land until its status is diplomatically resolved. The clause that would have circumvented that court ruling, however, was removed from the bill following coalition infighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the measure. On Monday, the Israeli leader said he had informed the Trump White House that a vote on the legislation was imminent.

But the measure still faces steep obstacles, including legal challenges that could land it before Israel's Supreme Court, where the attorney general has said he will not argue in defense of it.

The bill passed on a vote of 60 to 52. To assign the entire West Bank to one side or the other in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, as the newspaper has done in a number of articles this autumn and earlier this winter, ignores global agreements signed by both parties that assert the status of the land is to be negotiated. Although the original mandate of Palestine had included land that now belongs to the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine only applied to territory west of the Jordan River, but did include Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

One, B'Tselem, called the vote a "disgrace" and accused lawmakers of "lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder".

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Another Likud legislator, the former justice minister Dan Meridor, condemned the bill as "evil and risky".

"The vote tonight isn't for or against the settlers, rather Israel's interests", Herzog said.

"Don't cross a line we've never crossed before", Meridor pleaded with his fellow legislators in a newspaper column. Israel also treated the Hague Convention as inapplicable regarding the state's conduct within the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority said the measure was "an illegal land grab". Israel is facing two futures: "either permanent apartheid or freedom and equality for all". It was read by some as expressing irritation that the Trump administration had not been forewarned of the Israeli plans ahead of a meeting between Trump and Netanyahu next Monday.

On Sunday, the pro-settlement Jewish Home party doubled down on its insistence that the bill be brought Monday for its final votes. Monday's bill seeks to retroactively protect about 4,000 of those homes.

After the bill passed, Bennett tweeted just one word: "Revolution". It represents the first time the government has tried to implement Israeli law in Area C, part of the West Bank that is under Israeli civilian and military rule, according to The Jerusalem Post.