Following months of coalition wrangling, damning criticism from internal and international opposition, and bleak warnings from legal experts, Israel on Monday legalized all West Bank outposts with sweeping legislation that aims to prevent future demolitions of settler homes built on private Palestinian land.
In a late-night session, the Knesset passed the final readings of the controversial so-called Regulation Bill, which paves the way for Israel to recognize some 4,000 illegally built settler homes.
The legislation could still be thwarted by Israel’s judges. “The chance that it will be struck down by the Supreme Court is 100 percent,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said last week.
After a day of back-and-forth on whether the vote would take place at all, the bill went before lawmakers at 10.30 p.m., receiving 60 votes in favor to just 52 against. All opposition MKs present voted against the bill — with veteran Likud lawmaker Benny Begin standing out as the only coalition member to oppose the measure. Eight MKs were not present in the plenary for the vote.
Speaking for the government in defense of the measure before the vote, Science Minister Ofir Akunis (Likud) said the vote was not just over this specific law, but rather about the right of the Jewish people to live in Israel. “This whole debate is based on one question: Who does this land belong to?” he told the plenary.
Condemned by the Barack Obama administration, the European Union, the United Nations and Israel’s attorney general, the law was hailed by the settler movement as a turning point in the 50-year settlement project. Now, supporters say, the era of evacuating Jewish settlements such as the one carried out against the illegal Amona outpost last week, is over.
First put forward by the Jewish Home party, the original proposal was intended to overturn a High Court of Justice verdict forbidding the expropriation of the privately owned Palestinian land on which Amona once stood. The clause that would have circumvented that court ruling, however, was removed from the bill following coalition infighting.
Over the course of the approximately one thousand years the First and Second Temple stood, only nine Red Heifers were used in preparing the waters used to purify Jews. According to Jewish tradition, the tenth one will be used by the Messiah.
Rabbi Hershcovich asked the farmer about the calf. The perplexed Mexican farmer explained that it had been born several months earlier, and that while the color was odd, he considered it to be “just another cow”. The farmer had never heard of the Biblical commandment and did not understand why the rabbi was so excited.