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Palestinian officials denounce Israel's settlement outpost 'Legalization bill'

Nov. 17, 2016 5:58 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 10, 2016 3:41 P.M.)
(File)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Palestinian officials condemned on Thursday the controversial “formalization” bill that would see the retroactive legalization of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank, which passed its first reading in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on Wednesday, saying that Israel’s right-wing has continued to “feed on the silence and indifference of the international community.”

A statement released by the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the international community to “uphold its legal and ethical responsibilities of providing security to the Palestinians,” while “opposing the crimes, violations, and aggression driven by the Israeli occupation.”

The ministry also reiterated the connection between the introduction of the bill and the Israeli Supreme Court decision to demolish the illegal Amona outpost in the central occupied West Bank, a ruling that has been met with strong resistance by right-wing Israelis.

Amona, where at least 40 Israeli families reside, was slated for demolition in 2008 after the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of Palestinians whose private land the settlement outpost was built on.

The Supreme Court dismissed a petition by the Israeli government to postpone evacuating Amona on Sunday, ruling that the evacuation be carried out by Dec. 25 as previously ordered by the court.

However, the new bill, if passed, would retroactively legalize the outpost, along with at least 231 additional outposts which are built on top of private Palestinian land, all of which are considered illegal under Israeli domestic law.

The statement also went on to condemn the actions of the pro-settler group Ateret Cohanim, which has forced nine Palestinian families from the Batan al-Hawa area in the Silwan neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem to court in an attempt to evict them from their homes, and the displacement of Palestinians residing within Israeli-declared closed military zones during military exercises on their lands.

“It is clear to the international community that the stealing of Palestinian lands and the establishment of Israeli settlements has no limits in the Israeli government,” the statement read, adding that right-wing Israeli officials “feed on the silence and the indifference of the international community to the enormous violations of international law, and all other signed agreements that protect against crimes against humanity.”

Meanwhile, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary-General Saeb Erekat also released a statement on Thursday, underscoring the fact that all Israeli settlements, even if government approved, are considered illegal under international law.

“It is not up to the Israeli government, or to an Israeli court, to define whether a particular settlement is legal or not. All Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine are illegal under international law. From Gilo to Efrat and from Ariel to Amona, every one of the over 200 Israeli settlements in our occupied country has the same status.”

Erekat added that the actions of the Israeli government did not represent a “change of policy,” but rather a “reaffirmation of its will to bury the two-state solution, perpetuating the systematic denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.”

Erekat also criticized the international community’s reaction to ongoing Israeli aggression, saying that “strong statements” against the decades-long military occupation and continued Israeli settlement expansion on Palestinian land had clearly not worked.

“Israel has been able to secure the presence of over 650,000 settlers in Occupied Palestine. The international community has the responsibility to halt all ties with Israeli settlements, including by banning settlement products and by divesting from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation,” Erekat said.

He concluded that the international community needed to take “concrete action” against the Israeli government in order to save any possibilities of a two-state solution.

The Israeli rights group Yesh Din, who represents the Palestinian petitioners whose land the Amona outpost was built on, reacted to Wednesday's ruling by vowing to "continue to assist the petitioners [...] and other Palestinian landowners whose land has been taken away, in the struggle against land theft led by the government using every legal measure available."

"Members of the coalition have appointed themselves -- for the first time -- as the sovereign in the West Bank in contempt of democracy in Israel, Israeli citizens, and Palestinian residents," Yesh Din's statement read. "The Knesset has made another step towards legalizing widespread land grab in the West Bank and annexing the occupied territory to Israel, all because the so-called leaders are incapable of standing up to lawbreakers.”

The Israeli government has continued to be embroiled in conflict over the Supreme Court ruling, with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat threatening last week that any dismantlement of the illegal Israeli outpost would be met with the mass demolition of Palestinian homes lacking Israeli-issued building permits in occupied East Jerusalem.

Following through with the threat, the Jerusalem municipality on Wednesday submitted a request to the court to approve demolition orders for 14 homes housing some 40 Palestinians in the Beit Hanina neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

Barkat has claimed that thousands of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem lack the difficult-to-obtain Israeli-issued building licenses, arguing that they should be subject to the same standards applied to the decision to demolish Amona.

"There cannot be one law for Jews and another law for Arabs," the mayor was reported as saying in the Israeli news site Arutz Sheva.

While the settler outposts constructed in Palestinian territory are considered illegal by the Israeli government -- despite authorities commonly retroactively legalizing the outposts -- each of the some 196 government-approved Israeli settlements scattered across the West Bank are also constructed in direct violation of international law.

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