Israeli Left warns against ‘de-facto’ annexation in Knesset vote

Oppostion leader Herzog says bill to retroactively legalize some settlement homes " goes against all of Israel’s international obligations."

Herzog and Livni (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Herzog and Livni
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Approval of the Settlements Bill is tantamount to de-facto annexation, Zionist Union party head MK Isaac Herzog warned on Monday afternoon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his faction meeting, “We plan to advance the legislation this week. It’s objective is to prevent [legal] deficiencies and attempts to harass settlements in Judea and Samaria.”
The Knesset had been scheduled to authorize the bill on Monday night, but technical issues and filibuster attempts by the opposition delayed the final vote on the matter until later this week or next week.
Herzog argued before his faction, that there were many reasons to reject the legislation all together.
“The bill seriously endangers Israel. It is [tantamount] to de-facto annexation and goes against all of Israel’s international obligations. It is because of this legislation that the UN Security Council passed a resolution on the settlements,” said Herzog, who is also the opposition head.
“There is no other instance in the nation’s history when the Knesset voted against the nation’s laws and against the option of several legal experts in the government,” Herzog said.
In the Zionist Union faction meeting in the Knesset he called on the coalition members to understand the fateful nature of the vote and to act responsibly by rejecting the legislation.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni charged that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke of the legislation only at the last second, was advancing the bill for political reasons.
“What we are witnessing today is a deal that was struck between the Bayit Yehudi party and Netanyahu. They will offer him [political] silence in exchange for the legislation,” Livni said.
Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit has told Netanyahu that the legislation is unconstitutional and won’t stand up in an Israeli court or an international one.
He has further warned that it could sway the International Criminal Court to take rule on the issue of West Bank settlements.
In reaction to Mandelblit, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that the cabinet needs to advance a bill that will allow legal protection in such cases. "This absurd situation in which the attorney-general refuses to defend a legitimate government law puts us in a spot in which he replaces the lawmakers," said Hotovely. "It harms the will of the people that have chosen this government and Knesset to promote their policies. This government should get to the Supreme Court with real representation, and not as someone that knows in advance that he lost," she added. 
Right-wing lawmakers have argued that this legislation, which retroactively legalizes 4,000 settler homes on private Palestinian property in Area C of the West Bank is a necessary step.
Without such a measure those homes would eventually be in danger of demolition.
Right-wing legal experts have pointed out that the legislation provides compensation for the Palestinian land-owners, a move that actually brings Israel into compliance with international law.
Earlier in the day, the special joint panel of representatives from the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice and Foreign Affairs and Defense committees gave their vote of approval to the legislation.
It is a necessary step, before the bill heads to the Knesset plenum for a second and third reading.
During the committee’s debate hundreds of pro-settler demonstrators rallied outside the Knesset in favor of the legislation.
Inside the meeting, MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) said that she had been reached by the coalition to support the postponement and was even offered a week-long delay of the vote.
However, she clarified that the opposition is against such a move. "If they want to kill the bill, they should do it themselves," Michaeli said, suggesting that even lawmakers from the coalition have doubts about the bill. "It should be clear that we are against this bill," she added. 
During the panel discussion, MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) labeled the legislation "the theft [of land] bill" and "the bill to damage our foreign relations."
"Supporting the bill shows that you forgot your Jewish morals," she added.
When she asked the participants "why won't you annex the whole territory already?" MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) replied "the act of annexing is of something that is not ours, this is our land."
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) a member of the panel that opposes the bill, said on Twitter that the government is leading the country in the wrong direction. "This bill will be cancelled by the Supreme Court and the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The more we regulate [illegal settlements] the more we go down," he said.