Israel’s settlement bill crosses red line


Israel’s parliament passed a bill to retroactively legalise thousands of West Bank settler homes built on privately-owned Palestinian land. The move has triggered international outrage and will lead to setting up a court fight where the politically charged law may be overturned. The European Union postponed a February 28 meeting with Israel meant to signify improved relations and Jordan, traditionally a mediator between Israel and Palestine, denounced the new law.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on a trip to London, said that he had kept Washington in the loop. The vote passed 60-52 in Israel’s 120-member Knesset. The raucous debate saw opposition lawmakers shouting from their seats at governing coalition lawmakers speaking in favour of the vote. The explosive law is the latest in a series of pro-settler steps taken by Netanyahu’s government since the election of Donald Trump, who is seen as sympathetic to Israel’s settlement policies. With Trump in the White House, Israeli government has approved plans to build thousands of new homes on occupied territory.
More than 4,000 settler homes are built on the unauthorized West bank outposts. According to the law, Palestinian landowners would be compensated either with money or alternative land, even if they did not agree to give up their property. The legislation upended a 1979 Israeli Supreme Court ruling forbidding settlement construction on land privately owned by Palestinians. The provisions of the bill are illegal and cannot be defended in the higher court. It also caught Netanyahu in a political vise.
The Palestinians want the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip — territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war — for their future state. Much of the international community views settlements as illegal and an obstacle to reaching peace with the Palestinians.
But the bill enshrines into law the theft of Palestinian land. All international laws are against building settlements and call it a crime. Israel’s move makes a mockery of the international laws and community. It is time now for the international community to act concretely to stop the Israelis from these crimes.
The bill is an attempt to crush Palestinians’ dream of independence. But the content of the bill is self-defeating in itself. It is in fact forcing the transfer of property from the legal owner to another person who has built there illegally. It not only contravenes the constitutional rights but targets only Palestinians. The legislation has made it crystal clear that Netanyahu’s claims of negotiations and dialogues are nothing but fake. The compensation clauses in the bill are an attempt to salvage the law’s constitutionality. It is an infringement of private property. And so it will not hold water when challenged in court.
The law is a direct challenge to the international community in the wake of December’s United Nations Security Council resolution that called for an end to the settlement building. It’s an arrogant behaviour of Israeli government, who is not willing to pay attention to what the international community is saying. It is about time to hold them responsible for the decisions and laws they are legislating. Netanyahu’s government must be dragged into a legal battle at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, which is already pursuing a preliminary examination into settlements. The bill, which has crossed the red line, is meant to implement the annexation of Palestinian occupied lands to Israel. It is an escalation that will only lead to more instability and chaos. It will greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace.

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