Israel passes law legalizing thousands of settlement homes

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the main Palestinian political umbrella body, said in a statement that the law gave settlers a green light to "embark on a land grab".

Israel passes law legalizing thousands of settlement homes

A law which has drawn international concern was passed by Israel on Monday retroactively legalising about 4,000 settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

This has been largely condemned by Palestinians as it comes as a huge blow to their hopes of statehood. It is also symbolic as it contravenes Israeli Supreme Court rulings on property rights.

Israel's attorney-general has said it is unconstitutional and that he will not defend it at the Supreme Court. Though the legislation, passed by a vote of 60 to 52, was backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing coalition, it has raised tensions in the government. Reports have quoted political sources as saying that Netanyahu privately opposes the bill over concerns it could provide grounds for prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.


A White House official said, given the new law is expected to face challenges in Israeli courts, the Trump administration "will withhold comment on the legislation until the relevant court ruling."

Last-minute appeals this week by Netanyahu to postpone the vote until after he meets US President Donald Trump in Washington on February 15, were refused by Jewish Home.

Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, the main Palestinian political umbrella body, said in a statement that the law gave settlers a green light to "embark on a land grab". The UN 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".

However, Netanyahu may face little to no criticism from the White House, which has signalled a far softer approach to the settlement issue than that of the Obama administration, which routinely denounced settlement announcements.

Israeli Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has described the law as unconstitutional and a breach of international law since it allows expropriation of private land in areas Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war. 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.

Most countries consider the settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace as they reduce and fragment the territory Palestinians want for a viable state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Israel disputes this and cites biblical, historical and political connections to the land, as well as security needs.

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