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Knesset to Supreme Court: reject petitions against outpost Regularization law

Sept. 24, 2017 4:41 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 7, 2017 9:20 P.M.)
A Palestinian rides on a donkey with a settlement in the background (Photo: Christian Peacemaker Team)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Knesset has called on the Israeli Supreme Court to uphold a controversial law that would retroactively legalize thousands of illegal Israeli settlement homes that have been built on Palestinian land, in response to petitions filed by human rights groups demanding the law's annulment.

According to a press release published Sunday, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, urged the court to reject the petitions against the so-called Regularization law, on the grounds that individual Palestinian landowners will be financially compensated for their land that was stolen by Israeli settlers, and because the law concerns outposts established in the past only.

The Knesset’s legal adviser attorney Eyal Yinon and attorney Avital Sompulinsky submitted the petition on Tuesday.

"The Regulation law creates an unusual solution to a difficult and unusual problem which allows for the regulation of lands and their distribution for settlement while providing adequate compensation to the landowners,” the 20-page brief states.

"The majority of Knesset members believe it creates a balance between all the circumstances, rights and interests related to this issue. In this regard, it is important to keep in mind that the law does not seek to change the ‘rules of the game’ and it does not pretend to change the existing local law, which will continue to be applied on all construction henceforth, because the law applies only to the past.”

The Israeli state has also defended the legality of the Regularization law by saying Palestinians would benefit by being financially compensated, and also claimed that Palestinian laws that prohibit selling land to Israelis were "racist."

The law, passed by the Knesset in February, states that any settlements built in the occupied 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.

Israeli human rights groups Peace Now and Yesh Din have both submitted petitions against the law.

The rights groups argued that the law was not just a contravention of international law but unconstitutional for Israel, as it “clearly violates the basic law: human dignity and liberty, while forcing authorities to expropriate rights of land ownership and usage from Palestinians for an unlimited time period.”

“The government attempts to present Israeli citizens, who are directly involved in land theft of Palestinians, as deserving a reward for their participation in the thievery,” the Peace Now has said.

“Additionally, the law violates international humanitarian law, the laws of occupation and other international conventions signed by Israel, which oblige the state of Israel to protect the rights of residents of the occupied territory and forbid the expropriation of their property for any use by an immediate security need,” the petitioners wrote.

Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.

The estimated 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory are all considered illegal under international law.
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