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Israel legalises settler land grabs in occupied West Bank

The controversial law will allow Israel to declare private Palestinian land as state property [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 7 February, 2017

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Israeli parliament on Monday passed a contentious bill that would retroactively legalise the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.

A controversial bill was passed by the Israeli parliament on Monday, legalising dozens of Israeli setter outposts built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

The law, approved by 60 members of parliament to 52 against, passed its third and final reading after Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said he had updated the US administration on the issue.

Far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich hailed the bill’s passage into law, thanking the American people for electing Donald Trump as president, "without whom the law would have probably not passed".

Smotrich, of the Jewish Home party, said passing the bill was "historic day for the settlement movement and for Israel.

"Today Israel decreed that developing settlement in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] is an Israeli interest. From here we move on to expanding Israeli sovereignty [on the West Bank] and continuing to build and develop settlements across the land." 

Ahead of the vote, opposition chief and Labour leader Isaac Herzog lashed out against the "despicable law", voicing concerns that it will force more Palestinians into Israel and undermine the country's Jewish majority. 

Read Also: Amona eviction drama: smoke-and-mirrors that benefits Israeli settlement project?

"The vote tonight isn't for or against the settlers, rather Israel's interests," Herzog said. The law would "annex millions of Palestinians into Israel", he warned, and expose Israeli soldiers and politicians to lawsuits at international criminal courts. 

"The train leaves from here will only stop at The Hague," he said, according to Haaretz.

"Its cars will carry international indictments against Israeli and Jewish soldiers and officers. This indictment will be signed by the prime minister of Israel." 

The controversial law will allow Israel to declare private Palestinian land on which settlements or outposts are built as state property, denying the owners the right to use or hold those lands pending proceedings to determine their status.

The measure will also add another 16 settlements and outposts to the list of potential territories were the bill can be applied. 

Meanwhile, demolition orders against settlements and outposts claimed by Palestinian owners will be frozen for a year until a resolution is reached on their status. 

Israel's settlement building came under renewed international attention after the passing of UN security council resolution in December, which condemned settlements as "flagrant violation" of international law and an obstacle to peace.

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