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Despite postponement, PLO warns against outpost legalization bill

Dec. 14, 2016 7:42 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 14, 2016 11:40 P.M.)
A Palestinian rides on a donkey with a settlement in the background (Photo: Christian Peacemaker Team)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) warned on Tuesday against the “Legalization bill” currently in the Israeli parliament -- the Knesset -- stating that the recent postponement of a vote did not “reduce the risks” of annexation of the occupied Palestinian territory.

The so-called "Legalization bill,” which would see dozens of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank retroactively legalized, passed its first reading in the Knesset earlier this month, after a clause demanding that the Amona outpost be retroactively legalized was removed.

However, further readings of the bill were postponed until January, a move which PLO official Madiha Araj said was an attempt to push back “the authentication of the settlement bill (legalizing the settlement) until US President Barack Obama leaves office.”

“Postponing vote on the settlement bill at the Knesset doesn’t reduce its risks,” Araj said. “These risks clearly appear in the Israeli government’s endeavors...to cover up the annexation of scores of settlements in the West Bank and its will to form new outposts.”

“The seriousness of this bill being devoted to control the Palestinian land occupied in 1967, lies in the means that the Israeli occupation authorities believes are legal to allow the application of Israeli sovereignty on occupied land, paving the way to actually annex all or part of it to Israel after being seized by force or military means,” Araj added.

Araj rejected the parts of the Legalization bill which would offer compensation to Palestinians upon whose lands illegal Israeli outposts are built, stating that the compensation process would involve “highly complicated judicial proceedings which last for many years,” thereby “consecrat(ing) Israeli control over the West Bank, and uproot(ing) any opportunity for the two-state solution through the partitioning of our homeland Palestine.”

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

As the Legalization bill advances toward becoming law, members of the international community have criticized Israel for its settlement expansion and disregard for international law.

Meanwhile, Israeli politicians have further discussed the fate of the Amona outpost in the Ramallah district of the occupied West Bank this week, which the Israeli Supreme Court has slated for demolition by Dec. 25.

According to Israeli rights group Peace Now, the latest Israeli government compromise would see the relocation of 40 settler families to nearby land privately owned by Palestinians

“The Israeli government is replacing one land theft by another,” Peace Now said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is willing to crush basic rights of Palestinians, bend Israeli law and violate international law -- all in order to satisfy 41 families who knowingly settled on private Palestinian lands. If approved, this temporary solution will quickly turn into another permanent new settlement with housing units and infrastructure on private Palestinian lands.”
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