Knesset approves settlement bill in first reading

Bennett: This bill says a nation cannot be an occupier in its own land; Begin: Proposal is neither wise nor legal.

December 7, 2016 22:31
3 minute read.
AN IDF CRANE yesterday removes the illegally placed modular home belonging to a soldier at the Esh K

AN IDF CRANE yesterday removes the illegally placed modular home belonging to a soldier at the Esh Kodesh outpost in the West Bank.. (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)

Legislation meant to retroactively legalize close to 4,000 settlement homes passed a first reading on Wednesday, after coalition infighting led to several false starts in recent weeks.

The bill was approved with 58 in favor and 51 opposed.

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) presented the proposed law over four hours earlier, amid nearly nonstop shouting from the opposition benches.
Amona resident on importance of settlements 'we're not occupying'

“The Land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. We returned after 2,000 years and established a state... A nation cannot be an occupier in its own land,” Moalem-Refaeli said.

The bill brought to a vote on Wednesday would legalize homes that were built on private Palestinian land with some form of government support at the time, be it roads or hookup to utilities. Rather than evict the residents, the state would pay Palestinian landowners for use of the land.

“Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria will not be destroyed, and Arab landowners will receive compensation. That is justice,” the Bayit Yehudi lawmaker argued.

According to Moalem-Refaeli, the legislation is the way the state is taking responsibility for homes it supported in the West Bank, and demonstrates that it values settlements.

“This is the best way for the State of Israel to exercise sovereignty and show that the residents of Judea and Samaria are not second-class citizens,” she said.

“This bill is saying that the settlement of Judea and Samaria is in the public’s interest.... Settlers are citizens of the country and the state must allow their lives to be normal.”

During Moalem-Refaeli’s speech, MK Dov Henin (Joint List) appealed to her religious beliefs, shouting to her that the Torah says not to steal.

“You can’t steal what belongs to you,” she retorted. “Then why did Abraham have to pay for the land [in Hebron]?” Henin shouted back. “We’re following Abraham’s lead; we want to pay the owners,” Moalem-Refaeli said.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg came out against the bill, saying that its passage would be an example of the tyranny of the majority.

“This Knesset could propose that the sun rise in the west and set in the east and it could pass, because there’s a majority,” she quipped.

“In the name of the majority, this coalition is passing a law saying it is permissible to steal. And then these people say they’re speaking in the name of God and the Torah! “Shame on you. You are destroying Zionism,” Zandberg said to the coalition.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid lamented what he saw as the superficiality of the debate.

“This coalition gives bills names that are the opposite of what they really are.... [It] took the most intelligent country in the world with the most complex problems and reduced it to two words,” meaning “settlement” and “bill,” Lapid said.

MK Bennie Begin (Likud), the one coalition member who rebelled against the bill, and was punished for it, said that settlements are important, but so is the rule of law.

“Our right to the Land of Israel is natural and eternal, whether it is in the Galilee or in Samaria.... We cannot allow there to be foreign sovereignty west of the Jordan River,” Begin said. “Nearly 400,000 Jews live in Judea and Samaria; may they multiply.”

However, Begin added, “some mistakes were made on the way. Problems were created; they need to be solved. The government has been looking for a wise, legal solution. This bill is not it. If it were, the government wouldn’t be looking for a different solution.”

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