Knesset approves bill legalizing Jewish ‘settlements’ in first reading

The Knesset has taken another step in advancing a historic bill that will save thousands of Israeli homes in Judea and Samaria.

The Knesset on Wednesday approved the Regulation Bill in its first reading, with 58 Members of Knesset (MK) supporting the bill and 51 opposing it.

The Regulation Bill is 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.

The bill was presented to a special joint committee in the Knesset on Tuesday, which cleared it for the vote on Wednesday. The bill still needs to pass second and third readings to become a law.

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.

MK Yoav Kisch, one of the authors of the bill, said that Israel’s shift in its political strategy vis-à-vis Judea and Samaria starts with the Regulation Bill. Israel elected a right-wing government, he said, and strengthening Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria is part of its mandate.

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

Israel Radio reported that the predominantly Arab Joint List party has threatened that if the law is approved, it will be used in the future as a basis for an indictment for war crimes against the government and at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Obama administration expressed reservations about the law, adding that it hopes the proposed bill will not become law.

The law is being 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 community is allegedly situated on privately owned Palestinian land. 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