Israeli lawmakers vote to pass contentious Palestinian land-grab bill in late night vote. February 6, 2017. Olivier Fitoussi

Israeli Parliament validates expropriation of private Palestinian land

Israeli lawmakers on Monday evening passed 60–52 a contentious bill that would retroactively legalize the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land, in a move Palestinians said could the kill chances of reaching a peace deal.

The Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed 60–52 a contentious landmark bill that would legalize under Israeli law dozens of so-called settlement “outposts” built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. These outposts were built without official approval from Israeli authorities but tacitly supported by successive Israeli governments, part of an effort to colonize as much Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as possible. Under international law, all Israeli settlements, including outposts, are illegal.

The vote follows Israel’s approval of a whopping 6,000 new settlement units in just the last two weeks, and the announcement last week that Israel will build its first entirely new settlement on occupied Palestinian in more than two decades. It also follows reports that last week Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared he is only willing to allow Palestinians to have a “state-minus,” and not one with full sovereignty or independence.

B’Tselem condemned the bill’s passage, saying it “proves yet again that Israel has no intention of ending its control over the Palestinians or its theft of their land. Lending a semblance of legality to this ongoing act of plunder is a disgrace or the state and its legislature. Passing the bill mere weeks after UN Security Council Resolution 2334 is a slap in the face of the international community. While enshrining the dispossession in law is a new development, in practice it is another facet of the massive land grab carried out openly for decades by declaring ‘state land.’”

Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian Authority official, said: “Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian rights and lives must be stopped. The international community has the responsibility to take concrete measures to protect the Palestinian people under Israel’s military rule, rather than merely issuing statements. It’s long overdue to hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations of international law, in defiance of the collective international will to act for peace.”

The following is some earlier statements before the vote took place late Monday night:

Suhad Bishara, Attorney and director of the Land and Planning Unit of Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel:

“If it passes, Adalah intends to file a petition against the Validation Law to the Israeli Supreme Court. This sweeping and dangerous law would permit the expropriation of vast tracts of private Palestinian land, giving absolute preference to the political interests of Israel as an occupying power and to Israeli settlers living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). It violates the property rights both of resident and refugee Palestinians.

“The primary aim of this law is to ‘validate’ more illegal settlements in the West Bank. These political considerations directly contradict the UN Security Council resolution passed on 23 December 2016, which re-confirmed the illegality of Israeli settlements. Further, the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory is a war crime, according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Moreover, the application of this Israeli law on the OPT is a violation of international law.”

Diana Buttu, Political analyst and former advisor to Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian negotiators:

“This bill rewards Israeli settlers who have stolen occupied Palestinian land in violation of both international law and Israeli law, by declaring it ‘government property,’ thereby allowing settlers to live on it rather that the lawful Palestinian owners. It is Israel’s attempt to make legal what the entire world, including the US and prior Israeli law, has declared illegal.

“Moreover, this bill gives settlers the green light to steal even more land. This is precisely why Palestinians cannot get any redress using Israel’s kangaroo courts. The system is designed to legitimate theft of Palestinian land while legalizing Israel’s dispossession of the Palestinian people. It is why the international community must apply boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it stops stealing Palestinian land and starts abiding by international law and UN resolutions, including the one recently by the Security Council reaffirming that all of Israel’s settlements built in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal.

“The vote on this bill comes after Israel’s announcement of approximately 6,000 new settlement units in the last two weeks ago alone, and the destruction of 30 Palestinian homes since the start of the year. In addition, Prime Minister Netanyahu just announced that Israel will build the first entirely new settlement in more than two decades, a move which even the Trump administration declared ‘may not be helpful.’ All of this is consistent with Netanyahu’s recent statement that he’s only willing to allow Palestinians to have a ‘state-minus,’ which in reality translates to a Swiss cheese Bantustan under Israel’s apartheid regime.”

Tareq Baconi, US Policy Fellow of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, and author of Hamas: The Politics of Resistance, forthcoming from Stanford University Press. See recent op-ed by Mr. Baconi at The Hill, Possible US embassy move to Jerusalem exposes facade of two-state negotiations.

“The Israeli Knesset’s vote on the outpost legalization bill provides irrefutable evidence that Israel’s right wing government now feels it has a carte blanche to push forward with its expansionist settlement enterprise on occupied Palestinian land. Prior to President Trump’s inauguration, Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to avoid further antagonizing the Obama administration, given its conviction that settlements are illegal. With the Trump administration, the Israeli government has no such qualms, as confirmed by the revival of this bill and by recent announcements regarding the construction of new settlements.

“If this bill passes, it merely demonstrates that the settlement enterprise has full legal, financial and political backing at the highest levels of the Israeli government. It is now more urgent than ever that the international community takes immediate measures to holds Israel accountable for its settlement enterprise by implementing UN resolution 2334 with its calls to ring-fence Israel’s illegal settlements in all international dealings with the state. This means boycotting the operations of financial institutions, corporations, retail industries and cultural and academic bodies that have outlets in the occupied territories. Failure to do so will mean that members of the international community will invariably become complicit in violating international law just by virtue of maintaining relations with Israel.”

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