Peace Now Settlement Watch: Ministerial Committee Approves Regulation Bill

News from Peace Now's (Israel) Settlement Watch:

Yesterday, November 13, the Ministerial Committee for legislation approved the regulation bill, which seeks to retroactively legalize illegal outposts built on private Palestinian lands. According to the bill, private lands taken for the purpose of settlement with the government's involvement will be "leased" to settlers, while Palestinian landowners will receive financial compensation and an alternative land but no right to appeal.
The timing of the approval of the regulation bill relates to the pending evacuation of the illegal outpost of Amona, which based on the High Court's verdict must happen by December 25. Earlier today (November 14) the High Court dismissed the state's request to delay the evacuation any further.

Peace Now: "A bill promoting lawlessness in the settlements was just approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. By approving this bill the government made theft a part of its official policy and took another step on the way towards a one state reality. Such action is contrary to international law, Jewish values and basic common sense, and was even deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General."
The proposed legislation:
The current version of the regulation bill was drafted after the Attorney General had deemed a previous draft unconstitutional. The Attorney General stated that the original regulation bill draft does not only violate international law but is also contrary to the Israeli rule of law. According to the previous draft of the regulation bill, private Palestinian lands were to be expropriated and then allocated to settlers. By offering a leasing of the land the legislators were trying to avoid severe legal difficulties. Nonetheless, legal issues remain in the new draft as well, and yesterday the Attorney General stuck to his opposition to the bill. In 2012, former Minister Michael Eitan (from Likud party) warned that "even our best friends will not be able to defend such legislation that would tarnish us with the stain of apartheid and expose us to the risk of international sanctions" (Yisrael Hayom newspaper, June 3, 2012).
After the approval of the regulation bill by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the government now officially endorses it, but in order for the bill to pass into law, it will still have to pass a preliminary reading and three readings at the Knesset, and go through discussions in the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. A preliminary reading is scheduled for this coming Wednesday (November 16). The support of each Member of Knesset of the coalition is crucial for the passing of this bill, and although the bill passed unanimously yesterday evening, there is much disagreement around it among coalition members. Even if it passes in the Knesset, the law can still be contested at the Supreme Court. However, the cancelation of the law by the High Court will allow pro-settlers Members of Knesset to show their constituencies that they did everything in their powers to pass the law, and might further deteriorate the status of the High Court.
The meaning of the regulation bill:
  1. Legalization of thousands of housing units on private Palestinian lands: The purpose of the proposed legislation is to retroactively legalize housing units built on private Palestinian lands in illegal outposts and settlements. In 2006, Peace Now revealed that approximately 32% of the settlements are established on private Palestinian lands. Recently, settler groups such as Regavim who have lobbied for the bill argued that there are over 2000 settler homes on private Palestinian lands which would be affected by this legislation.
  2. Permission to steal: According to the draft law, any person can steal any land in the West Bank, as long as he does so for the purpose of settlement. Furthermore, this bill grants a green light for settlers to takeover additional private lands in the future, knowing that they can be "regulated" for their usage. Thus, the draft law will practically allow the government and private individuals to steal lands of Palestinians without any legal implications.
  3. A fatal blow to democracy: The draft law is meant to retroactively cancel Supreme Court rulings that do not fit the pro-settler ideology. It is an attempt to change the rules of the democratic game and enable the government to get rid of the restrictions of the law.
  4. What is temporary becomes permanent: The idea of the lease is simply a bluff meant to evade land expropriation. History in the region has shown that what is temporary becomes permanent. Thus, the leasing means a de-facto expropriation.
  5. A contradiction of Israeli and international law: The Supreme Court ruled that the Israel's authority to expropriate private Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories is limited to cases in which those benefiting from the expropriation will also be Palestinians. An expropriation of private Palestinian lands for Israelis, meaning, for the purpose of settlement, is illegal according to high court rulings as well as according to international law. In Israel proper, the government is allowed to expropriate lands for public purposes (and not for other private purposes). However, the private lands of Palestinians in the West Bank – who do not constitute as citizens with equal rights in a democracy, but rather residents with no voting rights living under a military rule - cannot be taken for the use of its own citizens.
  6. Legislation in an area that is not part of the state of Israel: The draft law would apply only to the West Bank, namely to an area outside of the sovereign state of Israel, which is under military rule. The Palestinian residents that will be affected by the law do not have the right to vote for the Knesset, and therefore this is clearly an undemocratic legislation. Because the Israeli parliament does not have legal authority to legislate in the West Bank, the bill requires the head of the Central Command to issue an order implementing the content of the law.