Palestinians say Regulation Law aims to ‘legalize theft of Palestinian land’

Abbas, Erekat condemn legislation legalizing settler homes, say it violates of UN Resolution 2334; Peace Now to petition Supreme Court

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (Uri Lenz/Flash90)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas (left) and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (Uri Lenz/Flash90)

The Palestinians excoriated on Monday night the passing of the controversial Regulation Law in the Knesset earlier with a vote of 60 to 52, accusing the Israeli parliament of approving a law that “legalize[s] theft of Palestinian land.”

Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement that The Regulation Law — which 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 — was “another affirmation by the Israeli government for the Israeli settlers and occupation forces to continue their attacks against the land and people of Palestine.”

“The Israeli parliament has just approved a law to legalize theft of Palestinian land… All Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine are illegal and a war crime regardless of any law passed by the Israeli parliament or any decision taken by any Israeli judge,” he said, calling for the international community to take “concrete measures” and “hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations of international law, in defiance of the collective international will to act for peace.”

The Regulation Law came over a month after the United Nations Security Council passed a contentious resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and calling them illegal. The resolution was voted in by 14 of the 15-member council, with the US, led by the Obama administration in the final weeks abstaining.

A statement from the office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the law “was in violation of UN Resolution 2334.”

Senior Palestinian figure Jibril Rajoub told the Times of Israel immediately after the Knesset vote that “the appropriate place to deal with this law is the international court in the Hague. Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu] and [Naftali] Bennett [head of the right-wing Jewish Home Party] are responsible for this. The world should say whether Israel can continue to behave like the neighborhood bully or should behave according to international law.”

The Joint (Arab) List faction, a political alliance of four Arab-majority parties with 13 seats in the Knesset, called the passing of the law “a message to the world that Israel will continue its policies of occupation, settlements and war.”

The law “condemned to death a diplomatic solution” and reflected the right-wing government’s determination to implement “creeping annexation,” the party charged.

The left-wing Israeli NGO, Peace Now, announced immediately after the vote that it would appeal to the Supreme Court to have the law struck down.

“Tonight it became clear that [Benjamin] Netanyahu is willing to compromise the future of both Israelis and Palestinians in order to satisfy a small group of extreme settlers for the sake of his own political survival,” the organization posted on its Twitter account.

“By passing this law, Netanyahu makes theft an official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books.”

“In light of of this madness, we must act as the responsible adults and turn to the Supreme Court in order to strike down this dangerous law.”

The Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, also slammed the law, saying its passage “proves yet again that Israel has no intention of ending its control over the Palestinians.”

“Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace for the state and its legislature,” the group said in a statement Monday.

B’Tselem said the timing of the bill “weeks after UN Security Resolution 2334 was a slap in the face of the international community.”

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

While the law was hailed by members of the ruling Likud party and other right-wing parties, Israel’s attorney-general, Avichai Mandelblit, has warned that the bill breaches local and international law, and has indicated that he would not be able to defend it before the Supreme Court.

Earlier Monday, the UN envoy on Middle East peace warned that the bill could have significant legal implications for Israel and would push away the hope of a peace agreement with the Arab world.

Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement: “I am concerned by the scheduled vote on the so-called “Regularization Bill” [sic] as it would enable the continued use of privately-owned Palestinian land for Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

“If adopted into law, it will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace.

Avi Issacharoff and Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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