Bill legalizing Jewish communities passes preliminary vote in Knesset

The Knesset is promoting a historic bill that will save thousands of Israeli homes in Judea and Samaria while failing to save the homes of Amona residents, who prompted the law.

The Regulation Bill, a proposed law which legalizes Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria that were established with state involvement and possibly built on private land or land not owned by the state, was approved in its preliminary reading at the Knesset’s plenum on Monday by a 60-to-49 vote.

The bill will be presented to a special joint committee in the Knesset on Tuesday, and the coalition seeks to present the proposed legislation for a first reading on Wednesday.

The bill was voted on despite the objections of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who maintains that the bill may violate international law and cannot be defended at Israel’s High Court of Justice.

The law stipulates that communities built on private land or non-state-owned land will not be demolished. Rather, the land will be expropriated and the owner of the land will be compensated. It addresses hundreds of instances in which Israelis built homes with government consent or encouragement, later to discover that the land may have been privately owned or otherwise in dispute.

The new version of the bill says the state will give Israelis usage rights to privately owned land, but not full ownership rights.

The agreement does not include Clause 7, which would retroactively apply the law to cases on which the High Court has already ruled and, therefore, would have prevented the destruction of several homes at the town of Amona.

Instead, a compromise has been reached between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Education Naftali Bennett, in which the residents of Amona will relocate to another nearby site.

Netanyahu said the solution will allow the residents of Amona to remain on the hill as a community.

Bennett praised the law, saying it is spearheading full Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.

The law was advanced against the backdrop of a ruling by the High Court of Justice that the state must dismantle nine homes in the community of Amona, situated north of Jerusalem, by the end of 2016. The Knesset has been working feverishly to find a solution ahead of the December 25 deadline.

The residents of Amona have vowed to continue with their struggle and are threatening to oppose Israeli law enforcement officers when they come to remove them from their homes.

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News