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Israeli Parliament Legalizes 4,000 Jewish Settlements on Private Palestinian Land

  • VOA News

A picture shows homes near the Israeli outpost of Palgey Maim, in the occupied West Bank, Feb. 6, 2017.

Israel's parliament has passed a new law on settlements which is sure to be challenged in court and bring global wrath against Israel.

The Knesset voted 60-52 Monday night to retroactively legalize 4,000 Jewish settlements on private Palestinian land in the West Bank — land Palestinians want for a future state.

Israeli lawmakers on the right and left emotionally debated the controversial measure. The opposition called it de facto annexation of the West Bank and said it will land Israel before the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

'More instability and chaos'

One lawmaker said the measure is an “acute danger to the State of Israel” and says it goes against Israeli law. Israel's attorney general has called it unconstitutional.

Nationalist lawmakers say the Jewish people have a connection to the land and a right to it. They say legalizing the settlements is in Israel's interest and denies it is a path toward annexation.

The Palestinians are, naturally, furious.

“This is an escalation that would only lead to more instability and chaos,” a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, calling the law “unacceptable.”

A spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization condemned it as “legalized theft,” even if the bill contains provisions to compensate the Palestinians or give them other land in exchange.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left, greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the Foreign Office in London, Feb. 6, 2017.
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left, greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the Foreign Office in London, Feb. 6, 2017.

Netanyahu away

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was flying back from London when the vote took place.

He had expressed opposition to the law and said he wanted to coordinate it with U.S. President Donald Trump before signing it.

Israel believes the Trump administration would be friendlier than the Obama White House, which believed Jewish settlements hurt the chances for peace.

The White House put out a statement last week saying Trump has not yet taken an official position on settlement activity and “while we don't believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal.”

The law passed Monday would impose Israeli law in a portion of the West Bank that is not officially part of Israel, but is under Israeli military and civilian rule.

This would legalize 4,000 Jewish settlements on private Palestinian property — something Israeli courts have always ruled is illegal.

Settlement demolished

Israeli police demolished the Jewish settlement of Amona last week, forcing about 200 Jewish families to find somewhere else to live.

Palestinians say Jewish settlements on West Bank land they want as part of a future state is the major roadblock to peace. Israel says Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state is what is holding up peace talks.

Israel was furious when the United States, under former President Barack Obama, abstained instead of vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution in December, calling the settlements illegal and demanding Israel stop building them.

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