The Knesset plenum on Monday approved a new draft of a bill to recognize West Bank settlement outposts, a controversial measure castigated by its opponents as an illegal land grab that paves the way for Israel to recognize some 4,000 settler homes built on private Palestinian land.
After a raucous plenary session that saw opposition lawmakers screaming and ripping up copies of the proposed legislation, the revised so-called Regulation Bill — which received ministerial approval just hours before — sailed through Israel’s parliament, clearing its first legislative hurdle by a count of 60 MKs for and 49 against.
The Knesset discussion on the bill began stormily with a speech by Jewish Home MK Betzalel Smotrich that descended into chaos, as opposition lawmakers attempted to shout him down and drown him out by banging on tables.
Following the vote, the legislation was sent to committee and could be brought to a first reading in the plenum as soon as Tuesday.
Barring intervention from government leaders, the bill is expected to speed through the Knesset after gaining coalition support in an emergency meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation Monday night. If passed, it would then inevitably be challenged before the Israeli High Court.
Settlement watchdog Peace Now says the Regulation Bill will legalize 55 outposts and 4,000 housing units in existing Jewish outposts and settlements in the West Bank, cast over some 8,000 dunams (3 square miles) of privately-owned Palestinian plots.
Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett on Monday praised the measure as the first step toward annexing West Bank land for Israel. “Today, the Israeli Knesset shifted from a path to establish a Palestinian state, to a path of extending sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Let there be no doubt, the regulation bill is what will spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty,” a smiling Bennett said.
Right-wing parties claimed victory on Monday over the so-called Regulation Bill that will allow Israel to recognize outposts built on private Palestinian plots, with one senior minister saying its passage would pave the way for Israel to de facto annex West Bank land.
Despite the fact that the bill will not include a clause to save the Amona outpost from bulldozers, its original raison d’etre, the Jewish Home party and others in the government still praised the legislation, while many in the opposition derided it as a measure that will bolster lawlessness.
“Today, the Israeli Knesset shifted from a path to establish a Palestinian state, to a path of extending sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. Let there be no doubt, the Regulation Bill is what will spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty,” said a smiling Education Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, after the coalition agreed to forge ahead with the measure.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni, a former justice minister, wrote on Twitter that the new bill was really a legalized land grab.
Michal Rozin of the left-wing Meretz party said that the proposed legislation raises fundamental questions of Israel’s future identity. Given that the Regulation Bill will annex parts of the West Bank to Israel and mitigates against any future two-state solution, Rozin asked what a future one-state solution would look like.
“How will Israel view the one-state solution? Will you go to concern yourselves with Palestinian schools? Will the Palestinians vote in the elections? Will there [one day] be a Palestinian prime minister [of Israel]?” she asked on Facebook.
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