Bill Retroactively Legalizing Controversial Settlements Approved

“Except Hashem build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except Hashem keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” Psalms 127:1 (The Israel Bible™)

By: Ilana Messika

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously approved the controversial Legalization Bill Sunday, the first step in a legal battle to  retroactively authorize communities like Amona, which were originally built without government authorization and which the High Court of Justice has ruled was built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

“This government will finally legislate on Judea and Samaria, even with the ‘lawfare’ waged by the extreme left,” said Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. She further claimed that leftist groups use “inappropriate methods,” rather than proper tools to influence the settlement map in Judea and Samaria.

Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked attends the weekly Jewish Home party meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament in Jerusalem on March 28, 2016. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ayelet Shaked (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The current bill contains three main points: No community whose establishment the government was involved in, whether through support or funding, will be evacuated. Second,  the state will compensate residents and provide them with alternative housing in the event of any future political decision requiring residents to be evicted.

Finally, the bill stipulates that in any case, evicted parties would be able to petition the Court to block the move and take action against it.

As such there is a change in the legal situation surrounding those communities who were created and assisted by the government but, the territory on which those are built remain disputed land on which the Israeli sovereignty does not apply.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman leveled fierce criticism at Bennett and Shaked prior to the Committee session, accusing Bennett of “endangering the State of Israel and the whole of the Judea and Samaria ‘settlement’[issue] on an electoral whim.”

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The bill was passed despite a demand by Prime Minister Netanyahu to delay the vote. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit also wanted to push off the vote, due to the legal tension it would create between the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and the High Court of Justice, which is currently considering a state request to delay the demolition of Amona by seven months.

The Court, which has given the government until December 25 to evict residents from Amona, has yet to rule on the government’s request. According to both Netanyahu and Mandelblit, the “legalization bill” could seriously harm the prospect of a postponement. The Attorney General further said that the proposed law to retroactively legalize unauthorized outposts would constitute a violation of international law.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni called upon the prime minister to file an appeal and decide when a government meeting should take place. She claimed that waiting too long to act would bring about immutable changes and severe damages.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg also harshly criticized the new bill by claiming that: “there is no limit to the cowardice of Likud ministers who, to conciliate settlers working in the party, will pass a law which essentially stipulates it is allowed to steal.”

“The ‘legalization bill’ is crucial, not only because it removes the sword of demolition from above the heads of Amona residents, and others in similar situations. But it is also important because it brings the debate on the ‘settlements’ issue back onto the forum where it belongs in a democratic state – the elected officials,” stated Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich.

“Furthermore, the government sends an unequivocal message to those who fail repeatedly in the democratic scene and attempt create routes that bypass democracy through the courts and legal system,” he concluded.