The so-called regulation bill paves the way for Israel to recognise thousands of illegally built Jewish settler homes constructed on privately owned Palestinian land in what opponents have dubbed a “theft” and “land grab”.
The law retroactively legalises the construction, with the original landowners to be compensated either with money or alternative land – even if they do not agree to give up their property.
The new law is the latest in a series of pro-settlement moves by Israel since the inauguration of US president Donald Trump, in which the construction of 6,000 new Jewish settlement homes in the occupied Palestinian territories has been announced in the past fortnight.
The international community overwhelmingly opposes settlements and sees them as an obstacle to peace.
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, told reporters at the end of his visit to London to meet the UK prime minister, Theresa May, on Monday that he had informed the White House the vote would take place on Monday night, and had indicated he would support its passage.
The new law – which is likely to face an almost immediate challenge in the cSpeaking ahead of the vote, the UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, warned: “If adopted into law, it will have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace.”
Netanyahu had blown hot and cold over the legislation – reportedly telling ministers he feared it would lead the country to the dock of the international criminal court.
ourts – was condemned by the Israeli opposition leader, Isaac Herzog, who warned before the vote that it would lead to Israel being tried at the international criminal court.
Comparing the legislation to a “freight train”, Herzog added: “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 law was quickly condemned by human rights groups including Peace, which issued a statement accusing the Israeli prime minister of being “willing to compromise the future of both Israelis and Palestinians in order to satisfy a small group of extreme settlers for the sake of his own political survival”.
It added: “By passing this law, Netanyahu makes theft an official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books.”
On Tuesday, Palestinian cabinet minister Rula Maayaa urged the international community to impose sanctions upon Israel in response to the bill. “Nobody can legalise the theft of the Palestinian lands. Building settlements is a crime, building settlements is against all international laws,” said Maayaa, the tourism and antiquities minister. “I think it is time now for the international community to act concretely to stop the Israelis from these crimes.”
The new law was praised, however, by far right Israel MP Bezalel Smotrich, who described the passage of the law as a “historic day for the settlement movement and for Israel”.
He added: “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.”
According to comments made by Netanyahu, the timing of the late-night vote on the bill was coordinated with the Trump administration.
A White House statement last week offered the mildest of criticism of a recent surge in the number of Israeli settlement building announcements. It was read by some as expressing irritation that the Trump administration had not been forewarned of the Israeli plans ahead of a meeting between Trump and Netanyahu next Monday.
Author: Peter Beaumont