Outpost bill vote to go ahead despite reported opposition from Netanyahu
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Outpost bill vote to go ahead despite reported opposition from Netanyahu

With the PM in London, controversial legislation recognizing building on private Palestinian land will be brought to Knesset Monday

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a meeting of his Likud faction in the Knesset, January 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a meeting of his Likud faction in the Knesset, January 23, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

A vote on the controversial outpost legalization bill will take place Monday evening despite reported opposition from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to coalition chairman David Bitan.

Netanyahu was said to be seeking to delay the final vote until after he meets with new US President Donald Trump on February 15, but with the prime minster currently on an official visit to the UK, Bitan said he had received no instruction to pull the bill from the plenary agenda.

“The prime minister has not asked me to delay the vote, so I won’t,” Bitan, a Likud stalwart, told The Times of Israel.

Asked if the vote would would go ahead even against a direct request of the prime minister, a spokesman for Bitan said that it would “definitely” take place during Monday evening’s plenary session “whatever the circumstances.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Coalition Chairman David Bitan (R) attend a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament on January 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Coalition Chairman David Bitan (R) attend a Likud faction meeting in the Israeli parliament on January 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Sunday, the pro-settlement Jewish Home party doubled down on its insistence that the bill be brought Monday for its final votes.

“Half a million residents of Samaria, Judea and the Jordan Valley deserve normal lives just like residents of Kfar Saba and Tel Aviv. Fifty years late, the Regulation Bill will come up tomorrow and pass in the Knesset in order to give them this normalcy,” said a statement from the Jewish Home party.

“We are certain that all members of the coalition will lend their support to make that happen,” the party said.

The statement was responding to Netanyahu, who earlier on Sunday rejected pressure from Jewish Home members to hold the bill’s second and third Knesset readings, the final votes before it is signed into law, on Monday as scheduled.

“I’m always hearing fake ultimatums,” Netanyahu said of Jewish Home’s pressure to push the bill Monday, as he boarded a plane to London to meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Such ultimatums, he added dismissively, “don’t excite me.”

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on January 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

If it passes its second and third readings, the legislation would legalize several thousand settlement homes that were built unwittingly, without permits, on privately owned Palestinian land.

The bill would freeze demolition proceedings against the homes. For any structures found to have been built in good faith – that is, if the homeowners did not know the house was being built on privately owned land – the state would seize the property from its Palestinian owners in exchange for compensation valued at slightly more than the land’s market value, as determined by an Israeli government committee established for that purpose.

The bill has faced strident opposition, including from Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has warned that it marks the first time Israeli legislation explicitly affirms government support for 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.

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog slammed the bill on Monday and urged coalition MKs to “stop tonight’s vote, which would be a disaster for the state.”

“The attorney general’s deputies said the courts would not honor the bill as it is illegal,” he told a meeting of his Zionist Union faction. “Therefore, I call on the members of the coalition, Defense Minister [Avigdor] Liberman and Finance Minister [Moshe] Khalon — you cannot agree to a law such as this. You would be supporting an illegal law and you cannot do that.”

Zionist Union leader MK Isaac Herzog leads a faction meeting in the Knesset, on January 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
Zionist Union leader MK Isaac Herzog leads a faction meeting in the Knesset, on January 30, 2017. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid told his faction that the “only reason this law is being raised is politics,” vowing to vote against the measure.

“They are passing a law that will endanger IDF soldiers, will endanger Israel’s international standing, will endanger our being a state of law and order, because they have problems within the coalition,” Lapid said.

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 and the issue is expected to be high on the agenda when the two meet in the White House on February 15.

Marissa Newman and Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.

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