Israel’s parliament to vote over settler homes in West Bank

Attorney general warns Bill to legalise homes built on Palestinian land is unconstitutional

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) is pushing ahead with the regulation Bill while attorney general Avichai Mendelblit warns against it.Photograph: Reuters

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu (left) is pushing ahead with the regulation Bill while attorney general Avichai Mendelblit warns against it.Photograph: Reuters

 

Israel’s Knesset parliament will vote this week on the controversial regulation Bill which grants retroactive approval for some 4,000 Jewish settler homes built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to push ahead with the legislation even though Israel’s attorney general Avichai Mendelblit warned that he will not defend the measure in court as it is unconstitutional and could also lead to lawsuits against Israel at the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

The governing coalition planned to introduce the Bill for its final readings in the Knesset on Monday but was forced to delay the move after Opposition parties presented more than 200 objections and promised a lengthy filibuster.

Despite the objections, the Bill is almost certain to pass, although there is a good chance it will be struck down by the courts even though it grants financial compensation for Palestinian landowners.

Land disputes

Mr Netanyahu is eager to pass the regulation Bill before these demolitions take place, anticipating a fierce backlash from the radical right.

Opposition head Yitzhak Herzog called the Bill a fateful mistake.

“The Bill seriously endangers Israel. It is tantamount to de-facto annexation and goes against all of Israel’s international obligations,” he said. “There is no other instance in the nation’s history when the Knesset voted against the nation’s laws and against the opinion of several legal experts in the government.”

Right-wing politicians rejected the Palestinian claim of an Israeli land-grab and said the Bill was the only way to prevent constant lawsuits by Palestinians backed by Israeli human rights groups.

Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman said his Yisrael Beiteinu party would vote in favour even though the chances of the Bill actually being ratified by the high court were slim.

“You don’t need to be a genius. When you read that the attorney general says that the law is unconstitutional, the chances that it will be thrown out in the high court of justice are 100 per cent,” he said.

Boycott

The Bill also covers foreigners who advocate a boycott of West Bank settlement products although it gives the interior minister the final say and will not affect people with a valid residency permit.

Critics say the measure is an attempt to silence legitimate political criticism but the Bill’s sponsor, Jewish Home Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich, said the right to enter Israel should not be taken for granted.