Ramallah – Palestinian politicians and human rights groups are warning that a new law passed by the Israeli parliament violates international laws and is a step towards Israel annexing the occupied West Bank.
The so-called Regulation Law, passed on Monday night, allows for the retroactive legalisation of about 4,000 homes built by Jewish settlers on privately owned Palestinian land.
“The law sets a new legal framework that implements the Israeli political interest and puts it above international humanitarian law,” Suhad Bishara, a lawyer at the Adalah legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, told Al Jazeera.
The law violates both the right to property and the right to dignity, Bishara said.
“The most obvious case here is that it violates property rights, because it basically confiscates private property for the sake of the illegal settlers,” she said. “But we cannot avoid the aspect of dignity here, and humiliation, and no value at all for the rights of the Palestinian owners of the land.”
Before the bill was passed, Israel’s attorney general said that it was unconstitutional and that he would not be able to defend it. Along with other rights groups, Adalah is set to file a petition against the law to Israel’s Supreme Court later this week, as well as asking for a temporary order not to implement the law until Israel’s highest court gives a final decision.
According to the Israeli rights group Peace Now, the law will allow for the expropriation of land in more than 50 settlements and outposts. There are 16 cases where demolition orders have already been issued by Israeli authorities, including land in the settlements of Ofra, Eli and Beit El, among others. As a result of the new law, the settlers in these illegal outposts would be allowed to remain in their homes.
Palestinian lawmakers in the Knesset denounced the law, calling it a direct challenge to the international community in the wake of December’s United Nations Security Council resolution that called for an end to settlement building.
“From the political point of view and from the legal point of view, this law should not have been legislated. This is a law that is meant to implement the creeping annexation of Palestinian occupied lands to Israel,” Aida Touma-Suleiman, an MK with the Arab Joint List, told Al Jazeera.
“This is a law that is challenging the international community. It’s arrogant behaviour by this government, who are 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.”
Gilad Grossman, a spokesperson for the Israeli human rights NGO Yesh Din, said that the law has stripped Palestinian landowners of any chance to reclaim their land.
“What it means is that Palestinian landowners can’t get their land back, whether they want to or not,” he said.
As a result of the new law, Palestinian landowners only have the option of financial compensation, Grossman added – “to go through the system of the people who stole your land and to ask for them to give you some money, as much as they decide to give you, on the conditions they decide with the proof they demand”.
The ownership of the land itself will remain in the hands of the Palestinian landowners, although they will not be able to access or use it.
“It’s a very cynical law,” Grossman noted. “It basically means that they own the land and can get it back in the future, if there will be some kind of political agreement and decision regarding the West Bank. It was stolen and now it’s being leased against their will basically, and there’s nothing they can do about it.”
On Tuesday morning, Israel’s high court ruled that 17 buildings in the illegal outpost of Tapuach Maarav would have to be demolished by 2018. It is not clear how the new law will affect that ruling.
Source: Al Jazeera
An Israeli land grab law that retroactively legalises thousands of settlement homes in the occupied West Bank legitimises theft, violates international law and ends the prospect of a two-state solution, according to politicians, legal experts and human rights groups.
The so-called “Regulation Bill” drew immediate condemnation after it was voted in by members of the Knesset late on Monday with a 60 to 52 majority.
The law applies to about 4,000 settlement homes in the West Bank for which settlers could prove ignorance that they had built on privately owned Palestinian land and had received encouragement from the Israeli state to do so.
Three Israeli NGOs – Peace Now, Yesh Din and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel – and numerous Palestinians said they intended to petition the Supreme Court to cancel the law.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday in a statement: “This bill is in contravention of international law and will have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel.”
The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the bloc “condemns” the law and urges against its implementation “to avoid measures that further raise tensions and endanger the prospects for a peaceful solution to the conflict”.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the law was an aggression against the Palestinian people.
“That bill is contrary to international law,” Abbas said after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris. “This is an aggression against our people that we will be opposing in international organisations.
“What we want is peace … but what Israel does is to work toward one state based on apartheid.”
Hollande called on Israel to go back on the law, saying it would “pave the way for an annexation, de facto, of the occupied territories, which would be contrary to the two-state solution”.
Hours before Abbas’ meeting with Hollande, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, told the Associated Press news agency that the law put “the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution”.
Calling it “theft”, Erekat said the ruling showed “the Israeli government trying to legalise looting Palestinian land”.
AL JAZEERA’S SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, MARWAN BISHARA:
“What you have here is a crazy number of settlers in the [Knesset].
Ten percent of the Israeli parliament are settlers; indeed the speaker of the Israeli parliament is a settler.
The settler lobby within the Israeli parliament is quite strong, even when they know that what they are doing is unconstitutional and will probably not pass the Supreme Court.
The idea is that the government gets in on it … even if they don’t get their way this time, they will be compensated if the Supreme Court rejects it.
All in all, there isn’t much room for international pressure on Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows it; he knows he has a president in the White House who’s going to back him.
Israel is basically going on a spree to increase the settlements in the West Bank. At the end of the day, this is a moving, explosive situation that I cannot see in any shape or form in the intermediate-run is simply going to go by without real, major repercussions in Palestine or outside.
Developing, over the last 50 years, is a dual system of government: one for the Jews in the West Bank and one for the Palestinians. There is only one name for that: apartheid.
The Arab League accused Israel of “stealing the land” from Palestinians.
“The law in question is only a cover for stealing the land and appropriating the property of Palestinians,” the head of the Cairo-based organisation, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said.
Palestinian owners will be compensated financially or with other land, but cannot negotiate their terms.
The law is a continuation of “Israeli policies aimed at eliminating any possibility of a two-state solution and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state”, Aboul Gheit said.
Jordan, one of the few Arab states to have diplomatic ties with Israel, also denounced what it called “a provocative law likely to kill any hope of a two-state solution”.
According to the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, the law crosses a “very thick red line” towards annexation of the occupied West Bank, and sets a “very dangerous precedent”.
Speaking to the AFP news agency, he said: “This is the first time the Israeli Knesset legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues.”
He also raised the possibility the law could open Israel up to potential prosecution at the International Criminal Court, a threat Israel’s own top government lawyer, attorney general Avichai Mandelblit, has warned of.
Mladenov called for strong international condemnation of the legislation, but declined to criticise the US after President Donald Trump’s administration refused to comment on it.
Trump is more sympathetic to Israel’s settlement policies than previous US presidents. The Israeli government has approved plans to build thousands of new homes on occupied territory since the new US president took office.
“I think that is a very preliminary statement,” Mladenov said. “Obviously, they do need to consult, this is a new administration that has just come into office and they should be given the time and the space to find their policies.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the US was likely to discuss the law with Netanyahu when the Israeli prime minister visits on February 15, but did not comment further in a press briefing on Tuesday.
David Harris, head of AJC, the global Jewish advocacy organisation, said that “Israel’s High Court can and should reverse this misguided legislation” before Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump in February.
That was also the message from Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said last week: “The chance that it will be struck down by the Supreme Court is 100 percent.”
Tobias Ellwood, Britain’s Middle East minister, also condemned the land grab bill, saying it “is of great concern that the bill paves the way for significant growth in settlements deep in the West Bank”.
Yuval Shany, an international law professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said the law violated basic rights, interferes with property rights and is discriminatory because it regulates only the transfer of land from Palestinians to Jews
‘Against all international laws’
International law considers all settlements to be illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not, which are dubbed outposts.
A Palestinian cabinet minister also called on the international community for support.
“Nobody can legalise the theft of the Palestinian lands. Building settlements is a crime, building settlements is against all international laws,” said Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Rula Maayaa. “I think it is time now for the international community to act concretely to stop the Israelis from these crimes.”
Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the law “unacceptable” and urged the international community to act immediately.
“This is an escalation that would only lead to more instability and chaos,” Rdeneh said.
Palestinians want the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – territories Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war – for their future state.
The international community views settlements as illegal and an obstacle to reaching peace.
Shortly before leaving office, former US President Barack Obama allowed the UN Security Council to pass a resolution declaring settlements illegal.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies
‘Entire Land Is Ours’: Israel Legalizes Palestinian Land Theft
Israel passed a law Monday retroactively legalizing about 4,000 settler homes built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, a measure that human rights groups have called “theft” and one that would end any hopes for Palestinian statehood.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the main Palestinian political umbrella body, said in a statement that the law gave settlers a green light to “embark on a land grab.”
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist, racist coalition government are deliberately breaking the law and destroying the very foundations of the two-state solution and the chances for peace and stability.”
The U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement that the law “will have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace.”
The news came just hours after Israel conducted airstrikes in the Palestinian Gaza strip injuring at least two Palestinians, the first attack by Israel in months that results in casualties.
Witnesses told Ma’an news agency that at least eight Israeli missiles were fired at several locations across the besieged Palestinian territory. Israel said it was responding to a rock thrown from the strip that landed in an open space and resulted in no damages or injuries.
Under the new law, settlers could remain on the land if they built there without prior knowledge of Palestinian ownership or if homes were constructed at the state’s instruction. Palestinian owners would receive financial compensation.
But its passage may only be largely symbolic as it violates Israeli Supreme Court rulings on property rights. Israel’s attorney general has said it is unconstitutional and that he will not defend it in front of the Supreme Court.
Ahead of the late-night vote, Likud minister Ofir Akunis told parliament, “We are voting tonight on the connection between the Jewish people to its land. This entire land is ours.”
Although the legislation, passed by a vote of 60 to 52, was backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition, political sources have told news outlets that Netanyahu privately opposed the bill over concerns it could provide grounds for prosecution by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
But the far-right Jewish Home party, a member of the coalition looking to draw voters from the traditional base of Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, pushed for the legislation after the forced evacuation of 330 settlers last week from an outpost built on private Palestinian land.
With Netanyahu under police investigation on suspicion of abuse of office, Likud has been losing in opinion polls, therefore Netanyahu did not stand in the way of the vote because he did not want to alienate his supporters and boost Jewish Home’s base.
The Israeli human rights organization 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.”
The group said that the passage of the law just weeks after the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution calling for the halt of settlement building was a “slap in the face” to the international community by Israel.