Coalition chair: PM will back outpost bill if no alternative found
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Coalition chair: PM will back outpost bill if no alternative found

As Amona demoliton looms, MKs scramble for replacement for draft retroactively legalizing settlements on private Palestinian land

Likud MK and coalition chairman David Bitan at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 2, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK and coalition chairman David Bitan at the Knesset in Jerusalem on November 2, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) said Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will support legislation to retroactively legalize settlement outposts built on privately owned Palestinian land if an alternative solution cannot be found.

The Regulation Bill, which was proposed by lawmakers from the national-religious Jewish Home party and the Likud, has been presented as a plan to avert the demolition of the Amona outpost, which the High Court determined was built on private Palestinian land.

Bitan told Army Radio that his party is leading efforts in the government to find a way to prevent the demolition of Amona without having to pass the so-called Regulation Bill. The High Court in 2014 ruled that Amona, which lies east of Ramallah, must be demolished by December 25.

“If there is another solution that would produce the same result without the implications of the Regulation Bill, we would prefer that,” Bitan said, adding that “we are working day and night” to find such a solution.

However, Bitan told Army Radio that “if there is not another solution, Netanyahu will support [the bill].”

From the time the bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on November 16, government lawmakers have been laboring to find an alternative that will prevent the destruction of Amona and other wildcat outposts, without having to deal with the international backlash that will likely follow the law’s passing.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett (R) with MK David Bitan during a Knesset session on the so-called Regulation Bill, on November 16, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett (R) with MK David Bitan during a Knesset session on the so-called Regulation Bill, on November 16, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meanwhile, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads Jewish Home, told Army Radio on Tuesday that while he is open to an alternative, he and his party are “determined to pass the Regulation Bill” and will continue to work towards “regulating settlement” in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s supposed readiness to support the Regulation Bill seems to be a major about-face, as he previously tried to thwart it from being voted upon, and warned his cabinet on Monday that “we will end up in The Hague if the bill passes,” a reference to fears that senior Israeli officials could wind up standing trial in the International Criminal Court over the bill.

The cabinet is scheduled to meet on Wednesday morning to discuss the Regulation Bill. According to Army Radio, if a solution is not found then, the bill will come up for an initial vote in the Knesset later that day.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, also of Likud, said that he will not prevent a vote on the bill, Israel National News reported.

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