In a preliminary reading, Israel’s Knesset passed on Wednesday, November 16, the controversial Outpost Regulation Bill which would potentially see thousands of homes in the West Bank legalized. Amona, home to about 40 families, was built on lands privately owned by Palestinians, who successfully petitioned Israeli courts for the outpost’s removal. The bill however goes far beyond legalizing Amona, and would allow an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 settler homes in the West Bank built on Palestinian land in the occupied territories to be legalized. According to the bill, Palestinian landowners “would be offered compensation in exchange,” but Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says the move would undermine private property laws. The bill will become law if it is passed by the Knesset in its second and third readings.
In Wednesday’s preliminary reading, the bill passed by a vote of 58 for and 50 against, two days after the Supreme Court rejected an appeal to delay the demolition of the Amona settlement in the occupied West Bank. During the Knesset session, Joint List leader MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash) warned that the bill is the beginning of Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. “The government has sent a clear message to the world that it does not see the occupation as temporary, and it does not want an agreed-upon solution, but rather intends to continue warfare and occupation,” Odeh said. “This law, which legalizes theft and robbery, proves once again that the occupation cannot exist at the same time as the rule of law.”
In a tweet, MK Odeh later wrote: “The government has torn off its mask and has begun the process of annexation of the West Bank, thereby sending a clear message to the world that it does not see the occupation as a temporary situation and is not looking towards a solution.” “Whoever wants more proof of the cruelty, immorality and violence of the occupation got it in this bill,” said Hadash Knesset member Yousef Jabareen of the Joint List. “It gives lands to cruel thieves and spits in the face of the law and the international community.”
In the debate preceding the vote, Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) described the bill as immoral. He called on all Knesset members to oppose the bill, saying that “never before in the country’s history has the Knesset voted in total contradiction to laws of the state and international law. Now, laws are being written retroactively to whitewash the settlements crimes.”