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Netanyahu pushing for speedy passage of outpost 'Legalization bill'

Jan. 29, 2017 9:45 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 30, 2017 11:46 A.M.)
Israeli settlers in the illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh near the West Bank village of Turmusayya on March 5, 2008. (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is set to advance the controversial “Legalization bill” this week, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed coalition chairman David Bitton to approve the legislation, which would see dozens of illegal Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank retroactively recognized by the Israeli government.

In a statement following the Israeli’s cabinet weekly meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said that the government would submit the “Legalization bill” -- also known as the “Regularization” or “Formalization bill” -- to the Knesset on Monday.

“The law is designed to normalize the status of Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria once and for all and prevent recurrent attempts to harm the settlement enterprise,” Netanyahu said, using an Israeli term for the occupied West Bank.

The bill needs to pass two more readings in the Knesset before becoming law.

According to the Times of Israel, the bill 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.

The news outlet added that the Israeli government would be able to appropriate land if its Palestinian owners were not identified, or offer compensation packages to the landowners -- whether by leasing the land or offering alternate plots of land.

Israeli ministers first advanced the bill, which would see thousands of dunams of privately owned Palestinian land seized in addition to the Israeli government’s recognition of dozen of illegal settlement outposts, in November, as it passed its first reading in December.

Both opponents and supporters of the bill have said the legislation would pave to way to annexing the majority of the West Bank.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has repeatedly stated that the bill contravenes both Israeli and international law and that the Israeli Supreme Court would likely strike it down.

It is believed that the controversial bill had been strategically stalled until Donald Trump was officially sworn in as president of the United States, as he has come out as a vocal supporter of Israel's illegal settlement policy.

Meanwhile, Ynet reported that Israeli officials had met with settlers from the illegal Ofra outpost to inform them of Netanyahu’s determination to pass the Legalization bill into law, as well approve the construction of 68 housing units there.

Nine homes in Ofra have been slated for evacuation by February -- like the neighboring outpost of Amona -- with Ofra settlers announcing that they were planning a hunger strike outside to obtain government recognition.

However, the hunger strike has been postponed pending the outcome of the Legalization bill vote.

Rights groups have highlighted that, while 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 occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are also built in direct violation of international law.

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.

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 publicly stating their opposition 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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