The following is an email update sent by Yesh Din- Volunteers for Human Rights on July 15, 2016:
Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation to debate
land regulation (outpost/hasdara) bill this Sunday
On Sunday 17 July, 2016 the Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation is scheduled to debate two versions of the land regulation or outpost (hasdara) bill, determining whether the GOI will endorse its legislation.
This bill is being proposed in the context of the approaching deadline set by Israel’s High Court for the removal of all structures from the outpost of Amona (December 2016) and nine structures in Ofra (February 2017), but would potentially apply to all unauthorized Israeli construction on private Palestinian land in the West Bank. According to a recent media report, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) noted she will support these bills, proposed by MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) in October 2015, and by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Jewish Home) in May 2016. A previous debate, scheduled for October 2015, was cancelled, apparently due to international pressure.
While PM Netanyahu may remove this debate from the agenda of the committee, the bill could be approved by the Committee and voted on by the Knesset for preliminary approval before the Knesset adjourns for the summer.
On the political and international level, the land regulation bill paves the way to retroactive authorization of outposts and the creation of new settlements, contrary to Israel’s pledge to the international community that it would not build new settlements in the OPT. The bill’s purpose starkly contradicts both the legal and policy position of the international community, that all Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate international law.
What are the proposed bills?
Bother versions of the controversial land regulation or outpost (hasdara) bill would enable the State to confiscate privately-owned lands from Palestinians in the West Bank without their consent. According to information submitted to the Knesset, approximately 2,000 structures in settlements are situated on land owned privately by Palestinians. A recent draft of the land regulation bill is designed to overcome current legal obstacles to authorize outpost and settlement construction built on private Palestinian land. As previous such legislative drafts, the newest version of the bill, proposed in May by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the Jewish Home party, would force Palestinians into waiving their rights to their property in return for compensation without the right to appeal. The previous attempt to pass such a bill, of October 2015, specifically addressed the outpost of Amona and three other settlements; the bill was shelved, possibly due to international pressure.
Implications if the bill is passed
Approval of this bill would have far-reaching legal implications and directly infringe upon Palestinians' right to property in the West Bank, a right which Israel’s High Court of Justice has recognized as fundamental.
The Knesset has insofar refrained from legislating laws pertaining to the status of land in the West Bank because according to international law, the military commander is the sovereign and thus the legislator, affording him the power to decide the status of a certain plot of land. This would be changed by the bill, thereby placing large parts in the West Bank under Israeli jurisdiction. If approved, the bill would constitute the GOI's explicit declaration of its intentions in violation of its international undertakings and repeated commitments to cease settlement expansion and construction. It would deal an immeasurable blow to the rule of law, and indicate the GOI's clear preference of its settlement policies over democracy and a point of no return.
It is essential that the international community remain active on this issue and underscore its concern to the Prime Minister of Israel about the proposed bill and its implications for peace, rule of law and human rights.
The recent report of the Quartet specifically addressed the matter of outpost authorization: “The continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development, including the recent high rate of demolitions, is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution.” (section II. Settlement Expansion, Land Designations, and Denial of Palestinian Development).
The Prime Minister of Israel has the power to strike down this proposal. Therefore it is essential that the international community engage directly with the Prime Minister's Office. They might also wish to engage the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defense.
Links to the proposed bill (Hebrew) by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Jewish Home) and byMK Yoav Kisch (Likud)
For further information on the land regulation bill and its implications, please see From Occupation to Annexation (p.14)