Is­rael set for vote to ad­vance bill le­gal­iz­ing set­tler homes

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­raeli law­mak­ers could vote yes­ter­day to ad­vance a bill le­gal­iz­ing some 4,000 set­tler homes in the oc­cu­pied West Bank de­spite in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism and warn­ings over its im­pli­ca­tions. The bill was set for a first read­ing in the Knes­set, or par­lia­ment, and if ap­proved would re­quire two more full votes be­fore be­com­ing law.

A vote was ex­pected yes­ter­day, though last-minute ne­go­ti­a­tions could still cause it to be de­layed. The bill was given pre­lim­i­nary ap­proval in par­lia­ment on Mon­day, with some of its back­ers call­ing it a step to­wards even­tual an­nex­a­tion of most of the West Bank. Some 400,000 Is­raeli set­tlers cur­rently live in the West Bank, ex­clud­ing an­nexed east Jerusalem, along with 2.6 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans.

The United States, UN of­fi­cials and the Euro­pean Union have warned that con­tin­ued set­tle­ment build­ing is eat­ing away at the pos­si­bil­ity of a two-state so­lu­tion to the con­flict. All Is­raeli set­tle­ments are viewed as il­le­gal un­der in­ter­na­tional law and ma­jor stum­bling blocks to peace ef­forts as they are built on land the Pales­tini­ans see as part of their fu­ture state.

Is­rael dif­fer­en­ti­ates be­tween those it has au­tho­rized and those it has not. The bill would le­gal­ize nearly 4,000 set­tler homes built on pri­vate Pales­tinian land. Key fig­ures in Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s coali­tion, con­sid­ered the most right-wing in Is­raeli his­tory, openly op­pose a Pales­tinian state. Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett, the bill’s main backer, has ad­vo­cated an­nex­ing most of the West Bank, like other Is­raeli re­li­gious na­tion­al­ists who point to the Jewish con­nec­tion to the land from bib­li­cal times.

Ne­tanyahu says he still sup­ports a two-state so­lu­tion to the decades-old Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, but is nonethe­less sup­port­ing the bill.

It has ad­vanced de­spite con­cerns from Is­raeli At­tor­ney Gen­eral Avichai Man­del­blit, who has said he will not be able to de­fend it be­fore the courts and warned that it would vi­o­late both Is­raeli and in­ter­na­tional law.

US State Depart­ment spokesman Mark Toner said Tues­day: “We hope that it does not be­come law. “En­act­ing this law would be pro­foundly dam­ag­ing to the prospects for a two-state so­lu­tion. “We’ve also been trou­bled by com­ments that we’ve heard by some po­lit­i­cal fig­ures in Is­rael that this would be the first step in an­nex­ing parts of the West Bank.”

Walid As­saf, the Pales­tinian min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for mon­i­tor­ing Is­raeli set­tle­ments, has called the bill “the most dan­ger­ous law is­sued by Is­rael since 1967.” Is­raeli oc­cu­pied the West Bank in the Six­Day War of 1967 and sub­se­quently an­nexed east Jerusalem in a move never rec­og­nized by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. But while com­ments by Ben­nett and oth­ers have sparked in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion, polls have shown that a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of Is­raelis sup­port an­nex­a­tion.

A re­cent poll by the Is­rael Democ­racy In­sti­tute think tank says 44 per­cent of Jewish Is­raelis sup­port an­nex­ing all of the West Bank, while 38 per­cent are op­posed.

Ac­cord­ing to set­tle­ment watch­dog Peace Now, the bill would le­gal­ize some 3,881 hous­ing units. Most of the homes are in Is­raeli-ap­proved set­tle­ments but were built on Pales­tinian land. Around 750 are lo­cated in out­posts which Is­rael has not yet ap­proved, Peace Now says. US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry has said there are cur­rently around 100 wild­cat out­posts in the West Bank and the bill would give ret­ro­spec­tive Is­raeli ap­proval to 54 of them.

An agree­ment to re­move one wild­cat out­post from the bill has al­lowed the leg­is­la­tion to move for­ward. The out­post known as Amona, home to around 40 fam­i­lies, is un­der a court or­der to be evac­u­ated by De­cem­ber 25 since it was built on Pales­tinian land. Some mem­bers of Ne­tanyahu’s coali­tion said they could not sup­port the bill if Amona re­mained part of it be­cause of the court rul­ing against it. A so­lu­tion is still be­ing sought for Amona set­tlers. —AFP

MO­SUL: Yousuf Odey, 10, who was wounded in the eye by Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, is treated by doc­tors at a clinic in Zahra district. —AFP

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