Israeli Lawmakers pass law to legalise settlements

Israel’s parliament has voted in favour of a law that would retroactively legalise Israeli settlements built on Palestinian-owned land.

Sixty of the Knesset’s 120 members voted in favour of the bill after its third and final reading and 52 against it.

The remaining members did not take part in the vote, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The bill affects some 4,000 homes in the West Bank and stipulates that Israeli settlements found to be illegally built on Palestinian-owned land will not be removed.

Instead, the legal owners of the land will receive alternate land or financial compensation.

Prior to the vote, Israel’s Attorney General, Avichai Mandelblit, called the bill unconstitutional and promised that he would not defend it before Israel’s Supreme Court.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, also said prior to the vote that, if the bill were to be adopted, it would “have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel.

He said that it will greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace.

Adalah, an Arab rights group, promised Sunday that it would file a Supreme Court petition against the law.

Around 600,000 Israelis currently live in more than 200 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlements are considered a major obstacle to a peace settlement with the Palestinians.

The bill was originally proposed as a way to save residents from the hilltop outpost of Amona from being evicted after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled it had been built on privately owned Palestinian land.

However, Amona was later excluded from the bill in order to help its chances of passing, and the residents were evicted last week.

The international community views Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal.

The White House of U.S. President Donald Trump widely perceived as friendly to such activity, recently signaled that Israel should slow down after it approved more than 5,000 settler homes within a month.

“The construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful” towards the peace process with the Palestinians, the White House said Friday.

NAN/Nnenna.O