Jewish Home doubles down on vow to pass outpost bill Monday
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Jewish Home doubles down on vow to pass outpost bill Monday

Defying Netanyahu, pro-settlement party says controversial legislation recognizing building on private Palestinian land will be brought to plenum for final votes

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett attends an Education, Culture and Sports Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett attends an Education, Culture and Sports Committee meeting at the Knesset on February 1, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The pro-settlement Jewish Home party on Sunday doubled down on its insistence that the controversial outpost legalization bill would be brought Monday for its final votes in the Knesset plenum.

The so-called Regulation Bill seeks to legalize several thousand West Bank settlement homes built illegally on private Palestinian property.

“Half a million residents of Samaria, Judea and the Jordan Valley deserve normal lives just like residents of Kfar Saba and Tel Aviv. Fifty years late, the Regulation Bill will come up tomorrow and pass in the Knesset in order to give them this normalcy,” said a statement from the Jewish Home party.

“We are certain that all members of the coalition will lend their support to make that happen,” the party said.

The statement was responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier on Sunday rejected pressure from Jewish Home members to hold the bill’s second and third Knesset readings, the final votes before becoming law, on Monday as scheduled.

According to media reports, Netanyahu was seeking to delay the final votes on the bill until after he meets with new US President Donald Trump on February 15.

“I’m always hearing fake ultimatums,” Netanyahu said of Jewish Home’s pressure to push the bill Monday, as he boarded a plane to London to meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Such ultimatums, he added dismissively, “don’t excite me.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on February 5, 2017. (Emil Salman/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem, on February 5, 2017. (Emil Salman/POOL)

The Regulation Bill offer financial compensation to the Palestinian landowners and staveg off any further demolitions such as the one carried out against the illegal Amona outpost last week.

While the Trump administration has mostly declined to condemn settlement building, the president has reportedly asked Netanyahu not to surprise him with unilateral moves in the West Bank and the issue is expected to be high on the agenda when the two meet in the White House on February 15.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said new settlements “may not be helpful,” after Netanyahu announced he would authorize a new settlement to replace Amona, the first in the West Bank in some 25 years.

In recent months, the Regulation Bill has been pushed by right-wing lawmakers, in part to offset the political fallout from the Amona evacuation.

If it passes its second and third readings, the legislation would legalize several thousand settlement homes that were unknowingly built on privately owned Palestinian land.

The bill would freeze demolition proceedings against the homes. For any homes found to have been built in good faith – that is, owners did not know the house was built on privately owned land before building there – the state would be required to seize the property from its Palestinian owners in exchange for compensation valued at slightly more than the land’s market value, as determined by an Israeli government committee established for that purpose.

An Israeli settler holds a flag with with "Amona, we will return" written on it at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017, ahead of its evacuation. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
An Israeli settler holds a flag with with “Amona, we will return” written on it at the Amona outpost, northeast of Ramallah, on February 1, 2017, ahead of its evacuation. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

The left-wing NGO Peace Now has estimated some 4,000 homes would be affected by the bill, while right-wing counterpart Regavim has put the number at about half that figure.

Netanyahu has expressed support for the bill, saying it would protect the settlement movement from “harassment” by legalizing the most common reason that lawsuits are brought against settlements.

The bill has faced strident opposition, including from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has warned that it marks the first time Israeli legislation explicitly affirms government support for settlements, and would openly curtail property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank in a way that contravenes the protections granted to occupied populations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The legislation — shelved late last year after Netanyahu reportedly sought to avoid any additional fights with the Obama administration before its end on January 20 — returned to the Knesset agenda last Sunday. The final draft of the bill outlines the procedures for legalizing unauthorized construction on private Palestinian land and compensating the landowners. It also immediately freezes administrative proceedings in 16 West Bank settlements for a period of 12 months.

Marissa Newman and Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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