A bill that would essentially legitimize land theft by retroactively ‘legalizing’ thousands of illegal Israeli settlements built on private Palestinian land recently passed its first round of voting in the Israeli Knesset on Wednesday, November 16th, and is expected to pass the next two rounds as well.
This bill has been condemned by the international community, which includes the United Nations envoy for the Middle East peace process and the US, Nickolay Mladenov, who has repeatedly called for an end to the continued construction of such settlements.
This legislation “has the objective of protecting illegal settlements built on private Palestinian property in the West Bank,” stated Nickolay Mladenov in a report by The Guardian, “It is a very worrying initiative. I encourage Israeli legislators to reconsider such a move, which would have far-reaching legal consequences across the occupied West Bank.”
The bill was put to the vote in three versions, all of which included a clause legalizing existing settlements that were built illegally, such as the controversial Amona settlement, which was set to be evacuated by December 25th.
The first version of the bill passed the first reading by 58 votes to 50; the second version by 57-52 and the third by 58 to 51.
This legislation is so controversial, even factions within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition have opposed it – including Natanyahu himself.
“There is no precedent, nothing like it, in which the Israeli government authorized a law that allows taking land from private people,” stated opposition leader Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Israeli Labor Party.
While this bill may have garnered some criticism, others are praising the bill as a milestone for Israel’s agenda. Israeli far-right leader Naftali Bennett celebrates what he is calling a “historic day” that could deal a final blow to any talk of a two-state solution, and “spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty.”
This bill presents yet another massive obstacle in continuing the already lagging efforts for a peace agreement between Israel and occupied Palestine, and seems to completely dismiss the idea of a viable “two-state solution.”
In a clear violation of international law, this legislation would grant legitimacy to 55 illegal outposts, including well over 4,000 housing units built illegally on Palestinian land, effectively swallowing up over half of the territory in the West Bank in a clear effort to continue the colonization of Palestine with no legal repercussions.
However, perhaps they were a bit too hasty to celebrate the death of the Black Snake, as critics warn that the denial of said easement would not halt construction of the pipeline altogether, but simply delay it.
Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, has released the following statement:
“For more than three years now, Dakota Access Pipeline has done nothing but play by the rules. The Army Corps of Engineers agrees, and has said so publicly and in federal court filings. The Corps’ review process and its decisions have been ratified by two federal courts. The Army Corps confirmed this again today when it stated its “policy decision” does “not alter the Army’s position that the Corps’ prior reviews and actions have comported with legal requirements.”
In spite of consistently stating at every turn that the permit for the crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahegranted in July 2016, comported with all legal requirements, including the use of an environmental assessment, rather than an environmental impact statement, the Army Corps now seeks to engage in additional review and analysis of alternative locations for the pipeline.
The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.
As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”
In other words: ETP intends to complete this project, regardless of what the Army Corps of Engineers says.
“I hoped even a lawless president wouldn’t continue to ignore the rule of law. However, it was becoming increasingly clear he was punting this issue down the road. Today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country. Roads, bridges, transmission lines, pipelines, wind farms and water lines will be very difficult, if not impossible, to build when criminal behavior is rewarded this way. In my conversation with Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy today, she was unable to give any legal reasons for the decision and could not answer any questions about rerouting the pipeline. I’m encouraged we will restore law and order next month when we get a President who will not thumb his nose at the rule of law. I feel badly for the Corps of Engineers because of the diligent work it did on this project, only to have their Commander-in-Chief throw them under the bus. But he’s been doing that to the military for eight years, so why not one more time on his way out the door.”
“It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe. This administration’s delay in taking action — after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps, and other federal agencies for months to make a decision — means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline still remains in limbo. The incoming administration already stated its support for the project and the courts have already stated twice that it appeared the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit. For the next month and a half, nothing about this project will change. For the immediate future, the safety of residents, protesters, law enforcement, and workers remains my top priority as it should for everyone involved. As some of the protesters have become increasingly violent and unlawful, and as North Dakota’s winter has already arrived – with a blizzard raging last week through the area where protesters are located — I’m hoping now that protesters will act responsibly to avoid endangering their health and safety, and move off of the Corps land north of the Cannonball River.”
Stated Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
It would appear that the announcement by the Army Corps was little more than a false hope the the people of Standing Rock, as the struggle to protect the water supply of the Nation’s First People continues to rage on.