Outpost bill cheered, jeered as step toward annexing West Bank
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Bennett: It opens path to West Bank sovereignty; Livni: It's a land grab

Outpost bill cheered, jeered as step toward annexing West Bank

While predicting same outcome, right- and left-wings praise bill that will legalize settlements on private land or predict doom for rule of law

Naftali Bennett, center, in the Halamish settlement on November 27, 2016. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)
Naftali Bennett, center, in the Halamish settlement on November 27, 2016. (AFP/MENAHEM KAHANA)

Right-wing parties claimed victory on Monday over the so-called Regulation Bill that will allow Israel to recognize outposts built on private Palestinian plots, with one senior minister saying its passage would pave the way for Israel to de facto annex West Bank land.

Despite the fact that the bill will not include a clause to save the Amona outpost from bulldozers, its original raison d’etre, the Jewish Home party and others in the government still praised the legislation, while many in the opposition derided it as a measure that will bolster lawlessness.

“Today, the Israeli Knesset shifted from a path to establish a Palestinian state, to a path of extending sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Let there be no doubt, the Regulation Bill is what will spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty,” said a smiling Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, after the coalition agreed to forge ahead with the measure.

The Knesset is slated to vote Monday on a preliminary reading of a revised version of legislation that will not save Amona, but will legalize other outposts sited on Palestinian land.

As part of the agreement to drop Amona from the bill, lawmakers will back a solution proposed by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit whereby the evacuees of the outpost, slated to be razed by December 25, would be housed temporarily on three plots of land administered by Israel’s Custodian for Absentees’ Property.

Young children play football by caravan homes at the unauthorized Israeli outpost of Amona, in the West Bank, on November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Young children play football by caravan homes at the unauthorized Israeli outpost of Amona, in the West Bank, on November 17, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The move would mean evacuees would have a place to stay near the original settlement, which the courts and other government bodies have repeatedly ruled was built illegally on private Palestinian land, while their new homes are completed in another settlement in the northern West Bank.

Jewish Home had sought to include a clause in the legislation that would overturn a High Court ruling that Amona must be evacuated by December 25, but in the end backed off the demand.

Bennett still told reporters it was a “historic day,” comparing it to the 1977 election of Menachem Begin’s right-wing Likud party after decades of hegemony by the dovish Mapai party.

“If this law does indeed pass, one could say that the revolution of ’77 happened here again, because today the national camp has returned to govern,” he said.

“Today, the Israeli Knesset shifted from a path to establish a Palestinian state, to a path of extending sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Let there be no doubt, the regulation bill is what will spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty,” he said.

If passed, the legislation is certain to be challenged before Israel’s High Court.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the head of the Kulanu party, praised the new version of the legislation without the clause to retroactively legalize Amona. Kahlon had vowed that his faction would torpedo the measure if Amona was included.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) seen with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on August 11, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) seen with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. (Emil Salman/Pool)

“We succeeded in taking a significant step towards regulating settlement in Judea and Samaria,” Kahlon said. We did this “without harming the Supreme Court and through upholding the primacy of law.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also hailed the compromise, saying that Amona residents would still be near the site of the illegal outpost.

Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) said the passage of the bill, afforded by compromising on Amona, would save other outposts whose legal status is up in the air.

“From the bitter came sweet,” she wrote on Facebook. “The Regulation Bill that we will pass tonight in the Knesset will today create justice and regulation for thousands of homes and hundreds of dunams [of land] in Judea and Samaria.”

Predicting the same outcome, members of the opposition castigated the measure.

MK Tzipi Livni speaks at a Zionist Union party meeting in the Knesset on June 27, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
MK Tzipi Livni. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, a former justice minister, wrote on Twitter that the new bill was really a legalized land grab.

“Passing the Regulation Bill without the Amona clause shows its true intent — annexation,” she wrote. “They should call it the Annexation Bill instead of the Regulation Bill.”

Michal Rozin of the left-wing Meretz party said that the proposed legislation raises fundamental questions of Israel’s future identity. Given that the Regulation Bill will annex parts of the West Bank to Israel and mitigates against any future two-state solution, Rozin asked what a future one-state solution would look like.

“How will Israel view the one-state solution? Will you go to concern yourselves with Palestinian schools? Will the Palestinians vote in the elections? Will there [one day] be a Palestinian prime minister [of Israel]?” she asked on Facebook.

The Regulation Bill is expected to speed through the Knesset, with a first reading possibly coming as early as Tuesday. But MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) complained that the measure should at least be afforded a full debate by lawmakers.

“A law which is so dramatic should be dealt with in a appropriate manner,” she said. “The new version [of the bill] requires a new discussion.”

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