Knesset gave preliminary approval to a bill that would retroactively legalize settlements in clear violation of international law

Press release

On November 16, 2016 the Israeli Knesset gave preliminary approval to a bill that would enable the retroactive legalization of settlement outposts built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The vote was approved by 58-50. The new legislation offers monetary compensation or alternative land plots to Palestinians who own land on which settlers have built homes without formal state approval. In addition, under the new bill, Palestinians will not have the right to appeal and are thus coerced into leaving their lands.

Since the start of the occupation, Israel has employed various policies and procedures aimed at appropriating Palestinian land, including by declaring land as "state land," closed military zones, nature reserves and archaeological sites. This land has been used to establish settlements and create reserves of land for the future expansion of settlements. Such practices of land-grab and dispossession have, in large part, occurred with the approval of Israel’s High Court of Justice. The systematic nature of Israel’s expansion into the OPT consists of both the physical presence of its citizens on Palestinian land and the creation of institutions and laws that encourage the individuals to move into the occupied territory Today, there are over half a million Israelis living in settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with around 10,000 settlers residing in unauthorized settlement-outposts.

However, the move towards formally legalizing settlement outposts raises concerns of annexation of Palestinian territory and potentially paves the way for the legalization of dozens of other settlement outposts.

“If the Regulation bill passes, it would further institutionalize land-grab and dispossession at the price of contravening final judicial ruling and international law principles.”

Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President

The preliminary approval of the Regulation bill is the latest twist in an on-going battle between Israel’s judiciary and the governing right-wing coalition. On November 14, just two days before the Regulation bill received its preliminary approval, Israel’s Supreme Court rejected the government’s request to defer the evacuation of the settlement outpost of Amona which is considered illegal under Israeli law. There are currently 40 Israeli families living on registered Palestinian-owned land in Amona, and the Supreme Court ordered that the State evacuate the outpost by December 25, 2016.

In an attempt to circumvent the Court’s authority, and in clear violation of international law, the right-wing coalition proceeded with brining the Regulation bill to vote.

While the settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government, each of the government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the West Bank are also constructed in direct violation of international law. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power is prohibited from transferring, directly or indirectly, parts of its civilian population into the territory it occupies. The transfer of a civilian population into an occupied territory is also considered a war crime under the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is currently conducting a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine, with the Office of the Prosecutor looking into both the alleged war crimes committed during the 2014 Gaza war as well as Israel’s settlement activities.

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