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NGO: Proposed bill would legalize 55 outposts, seize 8,000 dunams of Palestinian land

Nov. 29, 2016 7:13 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 10, 2016 3:43 P.M.)
Israeli settlers in the illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh on March 5, 2008. (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The eventual passage of the so-called “Legalization bill” in Israel’s Knesset would lead to the retroactive legalization of 55 illegal settlement outposts in the occupied Palestinian territory and the confiscation of more than 8,000 dunams of land, rights group Peace Now said in a report released on Tuesday.

The bill would see the legalization of Israeli outposts which are deemed illegal by both Israeli and international law, and would cause what the Israeli NGO called “grand land robbery.”

All Israeli settlements and outposts in the occupied Palestinian territory are deemed illegal under international law.

According to Peace Now, should the bill pass into law, 55 outposts composed built on 3,067 dunams (758 acres) of Palestinian land would become legal under international law.

The bill would also legalize 3,125 housing units inside settlements already recognized by Israel and expropriate 5,014 dunams (1,239 acres) of private Palestinian land, the group added, highlighting that these were conservative estimates and that the amount of land confiscated would likely be greater as the bill would pave the way for further land expropriation.

“Outpost legalization is not just an act of retroactive approval of facts on the ground, but it also serves as a green light for future illegal construction, out of the understanding that the government will retroactively legalize illegal construction,” Peace Now said in its report. “Additionally, once an outpost is ‘legalized,’ it is also likely to be expanded through new plans, and to turn into an actual settlement for all intents and purposes.”

The next Knesset vote on the bill is expected to take place on Wednesday. The bill has to go through three rounds of voting before it can become law.

“The passing of the bill into law will not only lead to a moral deterioration by approving the theft of private lands, but will also be a devastating blow to the two-state solution as it will allow the establishment and expansion of new settlements, far from the Green Line,” Peace Now said.

“Peace Now views the regulation law as a grand land robbery.”

The bill has been introduced in the wake of an 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.

Human rights groups and international leaders have strongly condemned Israel’s settlement construction, claiming it is a strategic maneuver to prevent the establishment of a contiguous, independent Palestinian state by changing the facts on the ground.

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 as many Knesset members have called for an escalation of settlement building in the occupied West Bank, and with some having advocated for its complete annexation.

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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