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Israeli ministers to introduce bill aiming for annexation of massive Maale Adumim settlement

March 2, 2017 5:34 P.M. (Updated: March 14, 2017 10:06 P.M.)
A bedouin camp near the illegal Maale Adumim settlement in the occupied West Bank. (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Right-wing Israeli ministers are expected to introduce a formerly postponed bill to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, next week which aims to annex the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, Israeli media reported on Thursday.

The Times of Israel reported that the controversial bill would be introduced at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday by Members of Knesset Yoav Kish (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home).

Israel's ultra-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett has been keen to introduce the bill, with its introduction having reportedly been delayed until Trump's inauguration, as the new American head of state has come out as a vocal supporter of illegal Israeli settlements.

However, the bill’s introduction was postponed earlier this year at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, following pressure from the administration of US President Donald Trump.

Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank's Jerusalem district. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburban city of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.

Calls to annex the massive settlement -- to pave the way for the annexation of the majority of the occupied West Bank -- have gained momentum among reactionary Israeli lawmakers and ministers following the passage of a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements and reaffirming their clear illegality.

Sponsor of the bill MK Yoav Kish intended for the legislation to not only annex Maale Adumim, but also the controversial E1 corridor surrounding it, where Israel has escalated a vicious demolition campaign against Bedouin Palestinian communities over the past year.

However, he has said he would be willing to compromise and leave E1 out of the bill if the issue proves to be a sticking point.

Settlement construction in E1 would effectively divide the West Bank in half and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state -- as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -- almost impossible.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been widely criticized for publicly claiming to advocate a two-state solution while simultaneously championing settlement policy to appeal to an increasingly right-wing government and Israeli public.

“His current coalition is the most right-wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by its most extreme elements,” former US Secretary of State John Kerry said in speech earlier this year.

“The result is that policies of this government -- which the prime minister himself just described as ‘more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history’ -- are leading in the opposite direction, toward one state,” Kerry said.

Last month, the Knesset passed the outpost Regularization law, which states that any settlements built in the West Bank “in good faith” -- without knowledge that the land upon which it was built was privately owned by Palestinians -- could be officially recognized by Israel pending minimal proof of governmental support in its establishment and some form of compensation to the Palestinian landowners.

The bill has been widely condemned as a major obstruction to a possibility of a two-state solution and would set the stage for Israel’s annexation of the majority of the West Bank, a move which has been pushed by right-wing Israeli ministers for years.

While members of the international community have rested the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the discontinuation of illegal Israeli settlements and the establishment of a two-state solution, Israeli leaders have instead shifted further to the right, with more than 50 percent of the ministers in the current Israeli government having publicly stated they are opposed to a Palestinian state.

A number of Palestinian activists have criticized the two-state solution as unsustainable and unlikely to bring durable peace, proposing instead a binational state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.
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