In a move seen by some as a small step toward Israeli annexation of the West Bank, the Knesset approved Monday legislation to include settlement residents in the national law against discrimination.
The amendment to 2000’s Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services and Entry into Places of Entertainment and Public Places Law adds “place of residence” to race, gender, religion and other descriptors that could serve as a basis for discrimination.
The amendment passed its final reading 54 to 29.
Now, businesses that do not provide services or ship goods to residents of Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be required to clearly state and display that policy. This makes it different from race, gender, etc. The legislation will prevent a business from deliberately misleading customers about where goods or services will be available.
Businesses that fail to properly warn about their policy — for example with a sign of at least A4 size by the cash register — could be fined up to NIS 10,000 ($2,690).
The amendment also applies to Arab communities in Israel and other remote locales within the Green Line but makes specific mention of Jewish settlements. Some businesses and vendors do not venture to these areas out of security concerns, and in some cases, ideology.
Presenting the bill to the Knesset plenary, MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli, of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, argued that the legislation offers the same protections to settlements residents as it does to the Arab-Israeli population.
“Anyone with a healthy intelligence will understand that this proposal will be good for someone who lives in Beit El in the same breath as it will be for someone who lives in Tayibe,” she said referring to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and an Arab town in northern Israel, respectively.
She accused the Arab MKs, who opposed the move, of putting their animosity to the settlements above their responsibility to their own communities.
“The Arab members of Knesset are not interested in taking care of their voters, only in harming the settlers. They would prefer to poke out both eyes of the Arab public as the settlers lose one eye,” she said.
MK Masud Ganaim of the Joint (Arab) List said there was an inherent contradiction in claiming to protect equality for the settlements, since they are themselves unjust.
“This proposal comes to give legitimization and to approve land that is occupied,” he said. “In this proposal they are making out as though it is part of Israel and it isn’t.”
Fellow party member MK Dov Khenin claimed the law was another step in tiptoeing toward a full annexation of the West Bank.
“This proposal is part of a series of laws that are trying to advance in practice the politics of actual annexation,” he said referring to the Regulation Law, passed earlier this month, which enables the retroactive legalization of unauthorized outposts built on privately ownedPalestinian land.
“They aren’t doing it in an open and direct manner, but in practice they are annexing the territories,” he asserted. “They are laying down norms of territory inside Israel on territories that are outside Israel. This is an attempt to bluff the public.”
MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee which wrote up the law, defended the legislation as being only a minor detail in the much bigger picture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“If the day comes when there is a peace agreement, it is not this law that will be its undoing,” he said. “You can’t make everything about the politics of left and right.”
Since the election of US President Donald Trump in November 2016, members of Moalem-Refaeli’s Jewish Home party have increasingly urged extending Israeli law to the whole of the West Bank, a move seen as analogous to full annexation of the territory that Palestinians want for a future state. Such a move contradicts the idea of two states for two people which is widely seen in the international community as the way to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pushed back against the calls.
Last week, Trump appeared to backtrack on a US commitment to the two-state solution as the sole posssible outcome of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and said he would welcome any solution the Israelis and Palestinians agreed on.
“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like,” Trump said during a joint White House press conference with Netanyahu before the two men sat down for talks. Trump’s comments appeared to buck decades of US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was based on the two-state solution, although the president’s UN envoy Nikki Haley said the next day that US “absolutely” supports the concept.