The United Nations warned Israel on Tuesday that the new Settlements Law helps pave the way for the annexation of the West Bank.It "opens the potential for the full annexation of the West Bank and therefore undermines substantially the two-state solution," the UN Special Envoy to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov told AFP. "This is the first time the Israeli Knesset legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues," he told AFP.
"That crosses a very thick red line,” he said and added that it also increased the possibly that the International Criminal Court would rule on the issue of West Bank settlements.The Israeli Right cheered the the so-called Settlements Bill that retroactively legalizes 4,000 new homes on private Palestinian property while offering the landowners compensation. They hoped it would prevent any future forced demolitions of settler homes, such as the last week’s evacuation of the Amona outpost and next months scheduled demolition of nine homes in the Ofra settlement."Those settlers in Judea and Samaria that were sent by past governments to live there have suffered from a great deal of injustice over a long period of time. Tonight we made sure to fix it and regulated their status – once and for all," Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said after the bill’s passage.But European countries condemned the new legislation on Tuesday. “This law could exacerbate regional tensions,” stated French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. “The law further harms the two-state solution,” said Ayrault as he recalled that in January some 75 countries and international organizations had affirmed that this option was the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.He called on Israel to respect international law, which considers settlement activity to be illegal.Great Britain warned Israel that its standing with its allies had been damaged.“It is of great concern that the bill paves the way for significant growth in settlements deep in the West Bank, threatening the viability of the two-state solution,” said British Minister for the Middle East Tobias Ellwood on Tuesday.“As a longstanding friend of Israel,” Ellwood warned that the bill “damages Israel’s standing with its international partners.”Just one day earlier, during a meeting at 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Theresa May told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the United Kingdom opposed settlement activity.Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday also condemned the legislation and reminded Israel that the UN Security Council had called on Israel to stop such activity in a December resolution. “The policy Israel persistently pursues despite the UN Security Council Resolution dated 23 December 2016 and numbered 2334 which put on record that illegal settlement activities at the occupied Palestinian territories are destroying the basis for the two state solution, is unacceptable,” he said.Both governments along with many others in the international community believe that settlements are a stumbling block to peace.In Jerusalem, Netanyahu spoke with visiting Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel about the almost three-year freeze in the peace process.“I think the problem for which we lack peace with the Palestinians is a simple truth – the persistent Palestinian refusal for the last 70 years, 68 years since Israel was established, to recognize a Jewish state in any boundaries. “This is the core of our particular conflict. I look forward to the day when we have Palestinians who are willing to recognize, finally, the Jewish state. That will be the beginning of peace and a great step forward to achieving it,” Netanyahu said.
Knesset passes settlement bill on February 6, 2017 (credit: REUTERS)