Responding to international criticism over Israel’s new law legalizing some West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian land, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely insisted the contentious legislation was rooted in a “just legal principle.”
Israel has come under harsh censure from the international community since the Knesset passed the Regulation Law on Monday, criticism she said was misguided.
“The settlement law that the Israeli parliament passed this week reflects a just legal principle,” Hotovely said in an English-language video statement Wednesday.
She said the wave of criticism was based on the incorrect underlying premise that Israeli settlements were built on occupied Palestinian land.
“Israel has both historic and legal rights to this land, and the law reaches the right balance between the rights of the Jewish families to their homes and the right of the owners of these plots of land to get compensation,” Hotovely said.
She said the principle of compensation could be found in all Western legal systems, and “creates the right justice between the Palestinians and the Jewish families.”
The law allows the expropriation of 16 parcels of private Palestinian land for Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank, paving the way for the government to recognize some 4,000 illegally built homes.
Under the law, the Palestinian landowners will be compensated financially or with other land.
The legislation was harshly condemned by the international community, with the UN saying it crossed a “thick red line” and other countries warning that the measure would make Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts more difficult.
Palestinians denounced the law as an attempt to “legalize theft” of their land, and on Wednesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in Paris for talks with French President Francois Hollande, said he would seek to fight the law in international forums.
“What we want is peace… but what Israel does is to work toward one state based on apartheid,” he said.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry said its faith in Israel’s commitment to a two-state solution was “deeply shaken,” and Britain’s minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, said the law “damages Israel’s standing with its international partners.”
Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has also condemned it, warning that it marks the first official Israeli government affirmation of support for wildcat 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 White House, though, has stayed mum on the law. Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer merely said US President Donald Trump would discuss it with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when they meet next week. “I think that will be obviously a topic of discussion,” he said. “Right now, I don’t want to get ahead of that.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.