Ne­tanyahu steps back from pro-set­tle­ments bill

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BETHLEHEM: In an about-turn from his past sup­port of a con­tro­ver­sial bill which would see dozens of il­le­gal Is­raeli out­posts in the oc­cu­pied West Bank retroac­tively le­galised, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu de­nounced the so-called “Le­gal­i­sa­tion bill” on Sun­day as an “ir­re­spon­si­ble move”.

Ac­cord­ing to Is­raeli news out­let Ynet, Ne­tanyahu blamed the bill for prompt­ing UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 2334 last month, which con­demned Is­raeli set­tle­ments and reaf­firmed their com­plete il­le­gal­ity un­der in­ter­na­tional law.

“It’s pos­si­ble that the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion passed be­cause of the ad­vance­ment of this leg­is­la­tion,” Ne­tanyahu said.

He nonethe­less re­it­er­ated his com­mit­ment to set­tle­ment ex­pan­sion.In Novem­ber, Is­raeli min­is­ters ad­vanced the bill which would see vast tracts of pri­vately-owned Pales­tinian land seized in ad­di­tion to the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment’s recog­ni­tion of dozens of il­le­gal set­tle­ment out­posts.

Both op­po­nents and sup­port­ers of the bill have said the leg­is­la­tion would pave the way to an­nex­ing the ma­jor­ity of the oc­cu­pied West Bank.

The leg­is­la­tion passed its first read­ing in the Knes­set, but still needs to pass its sec­ond and third read­ings to be­come law. It is be­lieved the con­tro­ver­sial bill had been strate­gi­cally stalled un­til Don­ald Trump was of­fi­cially sworn in as pres­i­dent of the US, as he has come out as a vo­cal sup­porter of the set­tle­ment pol­icy.

Mean­while, a vote on a bill seek­ing to an­nex the oc­cu­pied West Bank set­tle­ment of Maale Adu­mim that was set to oc­cur yes­ter­day has been post­poned fol­low­ing re­ported pres­sure from Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Is­rael’s ul­tra-right Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett has been keen to in­tro­duce the bill, with its in­tro­duc­tion hav­ing also been de­layed un­til Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion.

Maale Adu­mim en­com­passes a large swathe of land deep in­side the oc­cu­pied West Bank.

Many Is­raelis con­sider it an Is­raeli sub­ur­ban city of Jerusalem, de­spite it be­ing lo­cated on oc­cu­pied Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory in con­tra­ven­tion of in­ter­na­tional law.

Calls to an­nex the mas­sive set­tle­ment – to pave the way for the an­nex­a­tion of the ma­jor­ity of the oc­cu­pied West Bank – have gained mo­men­tum among re­ac­tionary Is­rael’s leg­is­la­tors and min­is­ters fol­low­ing the pas­sage of UN Res­o­lu­tion 2334.

Ne­tanyahu has been widely crit­i­cised for pub­licly claim­ing to ad­vo­cate a two-state so­lu­tion while si­mul­ta­ne­ously cham­pi­oning set­tle­ment pol­icy to ap­peal to an in­creas­ingly right-wing gov­ern­ment and Is­raeli pub­lic. – Ma’an

PIC­TURE: EPA

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu pre­sides over the weekly cab­i­net meet­ing in Jerusalem on Sun­day.

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