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.