Two prominent American-Jewish organizations criticized on Monday night the Israeli Knesset’s approval earlier in the evening of a law that legalizes all West Bank outposts, a highly controversial move that has infuriated Palestinians and NGOs that work to advance the two-state solution.
The so-called Regulation Law, passed with a vote of 60 to 52 in a late-night session, legalizes housing units built by settlers on private Palestinian land in the West Bank in cases where settlers did not know that the land they were building on was privately owned by Palestinians, and where they received some kind of assistance from the state. It paves the way for Israel to recognize some 4,000 illegally built settler homes.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in a statement expressed its “strong concern” over the bill, urging the Israeli government “to find alternatives” which address the matter of outposts built in the West Bank “in a manner consistent with both Israeli and international laws.”
The law has faced strident opposition, including from Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has warned that it marks the first time Israeli legislation explicitly affirms government support for the 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 ADL called on the Knesset “to heed the warning” of the attorney general.
“As an organization with a long history of advocating for the State of Israel both in the US and internationally, we recognize the complexity of issues relating to Israeli settlements. “However, it is imperative that the Knesset recognizes that passing this law will be harmful to Israel’s image internationally and could undermine future efforts to achieving a two-state solution.” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt in a statement.
The law, said Carole Nuriel, Director of ADL’s Israel Office, may “trigger severe international legal repercussions.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) said it was “deeply disappointed” with the passage of the bill.
The approval of the legislation, ahead of next week’s meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump, “is misguided and likely to prove counter-productive to Israel’s core national interests,” said AJC CEO David Harris.
“Israel’s High Court can and should reverse this misguided legislation,” said Harris in a statement.
Reaffirming its commitment to the two-state solution, the organization cautioned that “construction and the reclassification of outposts beyond the security barrier, and thus not anticipated to remain with Israel as a result of negotiated ‘territorial swaps,’ are not conducive to advancing prospects for peace.”
On Monday, Netanyahu, who was unable to make the vote due to a delay in his return flight from an official trip to the UK, rejected reports that he had been been seeking to delay the final vote until after he meets with new Trump on February 15.
Netanyahu stressed that he did not ask the Americans for permission to pass the legislation, but merely informed them of his intention to pass the bill through a second and third reading.
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. The issue is expected to be high on the agenda when the two leaders meet next week.
First put forward by the Jewish Home party, the original proposal was intended to overturn a High Court of Justice verdict forbidding the expropriation of the privately owned Palestinian land on which the illegal outpost of Amona once stood. The clause that would have circumvented that court ruling, however, was removed from the bill following coalition infighting. The outpost was evacuated last week, amid some violence and destruction to property.
The Palestinians on Monday characterized the law as “legalized theft” of Palestinian land ans said it was in violation of a December UN Resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israeli NGO Peace Now said it would appeal to the Supreme Court to strike down the bill.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.