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Israeli Parliament Passes Law that Retroactively Legalizes Settlements on Palestinian Land

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Brian Demo ’17

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Two+laborers+work+construction+for+a+new+housing+project+in+the+Israeli+settlement%2C+Maale+Adumim%2C+on+Tuesday+-+approximately+twenty-four+hours+after+Israel%E2%80%99s+parliament+approved+a+law+that+legalizes+thousands+of+homes+unlawfully+built+on+private+Palestinian+land.
Two laborers work construction for a new housing project in the Israeli settlement, Maale Adumim, on Tuesday - approximately twenty-four hours after Israel’s parliament approved a law that legalizes thousands of homes unlawfully built on private Palestinian land.

Two laborers work construction for a new housing project in the Israeli settlement, Maale Adumim, on Tuesday - approximately twenty-four hours after Israel’s parliament approved a law that legalizes thousands of homes unlawfully built on private Palestinian land.

Oded Bality/AP

Oded Bality/AP

Two laborers work construction for a new housing project in the Israeli settlement, Maale Adumim, on Tuesday - approximately twenty-four hours after Israel’s parliament approved a law that legalizes thousands of homes unlawfully built on private Palestinian land.

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed a provocative law that retroactively legalizes Jewish settlements on privately-owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.

The legislation justifies settlement construction under the notion of good faith.  Land without Palestinian acknowledgement, or no clear owner, subjects itself to Israeli expropriation.  Owners officially acknowledged receive financial compensation or alternative land from the Israeli government.  Yet, while lawmakers wrote sections that care for Palestine, the law proves highly controversial for both groups.

Main opposition leader and member of the Zionist Union in the Knesset, Isaac Herzog, called on the existing coalition to halt the law’s voting, warning about potential dangers it will bring Israel.  He claimed that the legislation encourages ongoing factions that support annexation, saying, “We have just a few more minutes to stop this terrible train before it leaves here and stops at The Hague.”

The Palestinian National Authority responded to the passing with outrage, characterizing the measure as an “illegal land grab.”  Former peace negotiator of Palestine, Saeb Erekat, shared a similar reaction by comparing Israelis to “looters.”

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, reportedly expressed his concern over the law’s draft approximately two months earlier upon returning home from a meeting with British leaders.  However, after its passing, analysts speculate that the choice to refrain from countering the voting process ultimately expresses his support for the legislation.  Officials of the opposition, such as Mr. Herzog, insist that Mr. Netanyahu received pressure from far-right members of the Knesset.  External factors may play roles as well.

Constituents and allies evolve into potential influencers.  Regarding the United States, many argue that President Trump’s openness to help Israel before he even took office–a reasonable contrast from Obama–provided further freedom for Netanyahu to passively let the law circulate through the floor.

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, asserted his distaste for the new legislation by saying, “it will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace.”

Before reaching implementation, the law must pass in Israel’s Supreme Court.  While it awaits review, social and political influxes in the region remain possible.

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Israeli Parliament Passes Law that Retroactively Legalizes Settlements on Palestinian Land