Ministers oppose Netanyahu on bill to authorize settler homes

"Legislation’s passage is inevitable," say MKs Kisch and Smotrich.

November 12, 2016 23:45
3 minute read.
West Bank construction

Construction in Amona settlement. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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Right-wing ministers plan to vote on Sunday whether to approve submitting a bill that would retroactively legalize unauthorized settler homes, in spite of opposition from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Bayit Yehudi Party is pushing the Ministerial Legislative Committee to pass the bill on Sunday, so there would be enough time for it to apply to the Amona outpost, which the High Court of Justice has mandated must be demolished by December 25.

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If the bill passes the Ministerial Legislative Committee, it must go through three Knesset readings before it becomes law.

“Passage of the bill is inevitable,” said MK’s Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), who co-chair the Knesset’s Land of Israel Caucus, which has championed the legislation. Approving the bill is the right move both “morally” and “ideologically,” they said.

In light of President-elect Donald Trump’s victory on Tuesday, Israel’s right-wing government can no longer use the United States as an excuse to support left-wing policies, they said.

“If necessary,” they said they would “wage an uncompromising war to ensure the bill’s passage” on behalf of the residents of Amona and those throughout Judea and Samaria.

Right-wing lawmakers have estimated that there are at least 2,000 illegal settler homes throughout the West Bank, both in settlements and in outposts.

But Netanyahu has historically preferred not to use legislation to resolve the matter. Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit has stated that the legislation which the ministers want to pass is unconstitutional.

Attempts to amend the bill did not change his opinion on the matter.

On Thursday, Netanyahu held a meeting with Mandelblit, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and asked for a delay in the vote.

He told the ministers that he plans to bring the matter up at a meeting of his coalition factions on Sunday, prior to the convening of the Ministerial Legislative Committee.

Ideally, Netanyahu would want the ministers to wait until the High Court of Justice rules on the state’s request to delay the Amona demotion until July 25.

The justices are expected to rule on the matter in the next few days and Netanyahu has said that a few days will not change the overall timetable for the legislation.

In addition, it is likely that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon might appeal any committee vote, meaning it might be impossible to keep to the legislative timetable in any event.

At issue are some 40 homes built with initial nods of approval from the Ministry of Housing and Construction, but without any final permits. Many of them are on private Palestinian land and therefore cannot be legalized.

The bill seeks to offer compensation to the Palestinian landowners, either financially or with alternative land plots.

Only a small number of the homes are in any immediate threat of demolition. The High Court of Justice, however, has ruled against the 40 modular homes in the Amona outpost and nine permanent stone homes in the Ofra settlement.

The international community, including the Obama administration, has spoken forcibly against the retroactive legalization of settler homes.

MK Amir Peretz (Labor) charged that the bill’s true intention is to prevent any final-status agreement with the Palestinians for a two-state solution. In addition, he warned, “it will destroy the country’s legal infrastructure.”

Imagine, he asked, if criminals built illegally in Tel Aviv on land that was not theirs, would anyone imagine legislation that would “regulate” it in some way? Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.

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