Knesset votes to retrospectively legalise settlements built on Palestinian land

Jerusalem Mayor threatens demolitions as revenge on Supreme Court

The decision of the Israeli supreme court to order the evacuation of 85 houses in an lllegal outpost by December 25 has started a battle for the soul of Israel.

All settlements are illegal in international law but the hilltop settlement of Anona considered illegal even by the Israelis. The Palestinian farmers who owned the land on which it was built went to court and for once the court found in their favour.

The response of the Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu was not to force the residents of Anona to move back to Israel, but to announce the building of a new illegal settlement at Shiloh in the West Bank so he can decant the evicted settlers from one illegal settlement into another.

Even this was not enough for the MPs in his right-wing coalition who voted on Wednesday November 16th by 58 votes to 50 to pass an emergency law that will retrospectively legalise Anona and all illegal outposts.

The reaction of the Mayor of Jerusalem showed scant respect for the rule of law: “Unless Amona is legalised, we’ll have to destroy hundreds or thousands of houses in Jerusalem too.”

In other words he is threatening to demolish thousands of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem in an act of revenge against the Israeli Supreme Court.

International law states clearly that an occupying power “shall not transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”.

Yet in 49 years Israel has transferred 650,000 of its own population into illegal settlements in the occupied territories of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

One MP from the left-wing Meretz party said the Knesset vote “resembles legislation in third-world countries where laws are written retroactively to whitewash their crimes”.

Another MP from the mainly Arab Joint List party said: “Whoever wants more proof of the cruelty, immorality and violence of the occupation got it in this bill. It spits in the face of the law and the international community.”

The UK government (and all Western governments) have consistently condemned the settlement project as illegal, but have refused to take any effective action even to stop settlement expansion. The EU, as Israel’s major trading partner, could easily exert enough pressure.

The UK now needs to make representations to the Israelis over the announcement of a new illegal settlement at Shiloh, to encourage President Obama to use the period between the election and the inauguration to lift the US veto and pass a UN Security Council calling for an end to settlement building and a deadline for peace talks , and to support the French peace initiative and back whatever motion they move in the Security Council.

 

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