Home News Israel Knesset passes bill to legalize settlements on private Palestinian land

Knesset passes bill to legalize settlements on private Palestinian land

Police evacuate Amon on Feb. 1. This new bill legalizes settlements on Palestinian land. JINIPIX

The Israeli parliament passed a bill that would retroactively legalize some West Bank settlements built on private Palestinian land.

Knesset lawmakers voted 60-52 in favour of the measure late on Feb. 6 to legalize some 4,000 settler homes.

The law, which prevents the government from demolishing the homes, comes less than a week after police forcibly evacuated the Amona outpost. It represents the first time the government has tried to implement Israeli law in Area C, part of the West Bank that is under Israeli civilian and military rule, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Knesset member Shuli Muallem-Refaeli of the pro-settler Jewish Home party said that the bill was “dedicated to the brave people of Amona who were forced to go through what no Jewish family will have to again,” the Times of Israel reported.


The bill has drawn sharp condemnation. Leaders of the Zionist Union and Yesh Atid, the second and fourth largest parties in the Knesset, respectively, both warned against its passage.

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has said the bill violates local and international law and would likely be overturned by the Supreme Court.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was not present for the vote, as his scheduled return from a trip to the United Kingdom was delayed.

Following a Monday meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Netanyahu denied he had sought to delay the vote after Feb. 15, when he is set to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., Ha’aretz reported.

“I never said that I want to delay the vote on this law,” Netanyahu said. “I said that I will act according to our national interest. That requires that we do not surprise our friends and keep them updated – and the American administration has been updated. This process was important for me because we are trying to act this way, especially with very close friends.”

Last Thursday, Feb. 2, Trump in his first statement on Israeli settlements since taking office said construction of new settlements “may not be helpful” in reaching a peace agreement, though he denied that existing settlements are impediments to a deal.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which have traditionally been hesitant to weigh in on Israeli domestic issues, both criticized the measure on Monday.

ADL leaders said it would harm Israel’s image abroad and lead to legal repercussions.

“[I]t 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 Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director.

The director of ADL’s Israel office, Carole Nuriel, added that the measure “may also trigger severe international legal repercussions.”

AJC said it was “deeply disappointed” about the bill’s passage and called on the Supreme Court to “reverse this misguided legislation.”

“The controversial Knesset action, ahead of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Trump in Washington, is misguided and likely to prove counter-productive to Israel’s core national interests,” said AJC CEO David Harris.

B’Tselem, a watchdog monitoring human rights abuses in the settlements, slammed the bill.

“The law passed by the Knesset today proves yet again that Israel has no intention of ending its control over the Palestinians or its theft of their land,” the group said in a statement. “Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace for the state and its legislature.”

Peace Now, a left-leaning group promoting the two-state solution, also criticized passage.

“By passing this law, Netanyahu makes theft an official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books,” the group said in a statement. “By giving a green light to settlers to build illegally on private Palestinian land, the legalization law is another step towards annexation and away from a two state solution.”

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which supports Israeli settlements, backed the bill, calling it “honourable and rational.”

“This Bill properly provides legal protection to not throw innocent Jews out in the street , who, with [government] assistance,built on land that was not claimed by Palestinian Arabs at the time,” ZOA President Morton Klein wrote JTA in an email Monday. “Since it also properly provides compensation of 125 per cent of the land value or comparable land to the Palestinians who did not claim the land at the time of Jewish development, the ZOA supports this honorable and rational solution.”n

  • Borukh

    The clearest overview of this piece of extremist legislation can be found in the fact that MK Benny Begin voted against it – the only Likkud Mk to do so. He’s not a centerist at all and has proven his hardliner ‘chops’ in the past. Also Attorney General Mandelblit has declared that he will not defend the law when it gets challenged in the courts. And the more centre-rightist Dan Meridor (a cabinet minister under Shamir, Sharon and Netanyahu) called it “evil and dangerous”, noting that ““the Arabs of Judea and Samaria did not vote for the Knesset, and it has no authority to legislate for them. These are basic principles of democracy and Israeli law.”

  • TerrorIsEvil

    The international community does not have the moral authority to criticize Israel for passing laws related to its own land. And this land is indeed Israel’s by the British mandate and all other agreements which formally made Israel a sovereign Jewish country from the river to the sea.

    The international community, prior to 1948, shoveled our ashes by the tonnes from incinerators to the garbage after gassing us to death. Now they want to tell us that the Land of Israel is not Jewish but belongs to monsters who also want to kill us into oblivion and are demanding another Holocaust. Sorry, it isn’t going to happen – even if those who want it to happen are Jews they have convinced to join them in the effort.

    Your rights end where my security and life is breached on purpose. And Israel’s security continues to be threatened day-after-day and so Israel is right to demarcate and defend its borders. Those who do not like it can be absorbed by the 20+ countries of the region who force the Arabs to terrorize Israel on their behalf.