Palestinians say settlement law permits land theft, ends hope for state

The legislation retroactively legalizes 4,000 homes in the West Bank built on private Palestinian property and pledges to compensate Palestinian landowners.

Knesset passes settlement bill on February 6, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian leaders said on Tuesday morning that the Knesset's passage of legislation, that legalizes settlement homes on private Palestinian property, sanctions land theft and ends hopes for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
“Israel's ‘Legalizing theft’ law is another affirmation by the Israeli government for the Israeli settlers and occupation forces to continue their attacks against the land and people of Palestine,” Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the PLO Executive Committee, said in a press release.
The legislation retroactively legalizes 4,000 homes in the West Bank built on private Palestinian property and pledges to compensate Palestinian landowners, who will lose rights to their land.
60 members of Knesset voted in favor of the law, whereas 52 opposed it.
Erekat, who also serves a Fatah Central Committee member, called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for its action including that pertaining to settlements.
“The international community has the responsibility to take concrete measures to protect the Palestinian people under Israel's military rule, rather than merely issuing statements,” Erekat stated. “It's long overdue to hold Israel accountable for its systematic violations of international law.”
Nabil Abu Rudeinah, the spokesman of the Palestinian Authority presidency, told the PA’s state run news agency, Wafa, that the law is “unacceptable” and a violation of UN Security Council resolution 2334.
UNSC 2334 said that the establishment of settlements “has no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation under international law.”
Hamas blasted the law and called on Palestinians to take “practical” steps to confront it.
“Hamas affirms the illegality of the occupation on any inch of Palestine’s soil and calls on our people and its factions on all levels to take immediate, practical, and urgent steps to confront this Israeli seizure of Palestinian land,” Abdel Latif al-Qanou, a Hamas spokesman, said in a press release, adding that the law amounts to “organized terror…and the continuation of wanton Israeli aggression at the expense of the Palestinian people.
Fatah, the ruling party in the West Bank, said that the place to deal with the law is the ICC.
The ICC Prosecutor-General Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary examination into a number of issues including settlements in 2015, but has yet to decide if she wants to open an full investigation into them.
PA Foreign Ministry called for a sharp response from the Security Council and the White House to the law.
“The Ministry calls on the Security Council to defend the credibility of its resolutions pertaining to settlement construction and achieving a just peace including UNSC 2334 and invites the American administration to clarify and explain its position regarding this dangerous Israeli escalation quickly,” the Foreign Ministry said in a press release.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told official PA radio that “if the White House, the ICC, the EU, and the international community generally do not hold Israel accountable,…the leadership will not accept any blame for steps it will take to defend Palestinian people’s rights,” without elaborating on what such steps would be.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, denounced the law, saying that it ends all hope for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist government coalition are implementing dangerous and catastrophic measures to destroy the principle of the two state solution and the possibility of peace, and to force the ‘Greater Israel’ project on historic Palestine,” Ashrawi stated to Wafa, adding that the goal of such a project “is to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
The law will likely come in front of the High Court of Justice in the near future as a number of Israeli non-governmental organizations have already committed to petition against its constitutionality.
The court has historically ruled against the legalization of settlements on private Palestinian property.