Right wing lawmakers renew push to have settlements in Judea and Samaria legalized

The Land for Israel lobby has written to party leaders calling for their backing on a bill that would legalize dozens of settlements. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News. 

Right wing politicians have called upon Israeli political parties Yamina and New Hope to back a bill that would see dozens of Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria given legal status.

MKs Yoav Kish and Orit Struck, the leaders of the Land of Israel lobby, wrote to the two parties as the Ministerial Committee for Legislation prepared to meet to discuss the proposed bill Sunday, reminding them of their previous statements of commitment to the “young settlements.”

“As you may recall, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett promised to regulate the young settlements in Judea and Samaria at his first cabinet meeting, a promise that has not yet been fulfilled,” they wrote.

Addressing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, a senior member of Yamina, the pair wrote: “Yamina is committed to any coalition agreement on the issue of regulating young settlements and will be at the top of the list of priorities.”

And they reminded Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, leader of New Hope, of his previous comments in which he said: “I consider this a moral obligation of the State of Israel to its citizens.”

The bill, submitted by Struck and authored by Zionist Religious Party head Bezalel Smotrich, comes to the Knesset at the same time as Ra’am (The United Arab List) is championing a bill that would see Bedouin communities in the Negev connected to the electricity grid.

Struck and Kish referenced this in further letters, sent to Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana, Minister of Education Yifat Shasha-Biton, Minister Pnina Tamano Shata, Minister Avigdor Liberman, Minister Meirav Cohen and Minister Yoaz Handel, in which they wrote: “these days about 20,000 residents of the young settlements, the pioneers of our generation, including about 12,000 children, [have no heat] for the coming winter, and at the same time they hear how the government regulates the Bedouin outposts on the one hand, and enacts the Electricity Law to launder illegal construction in the Arab sector on the other.”

However, the bill does not have the backing of the coalition. Should it fail at the committee stage, Smotrich has vowed to advance it through the Knesset as a private member’s bill.

The committee meeting comes as Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev (Labour) took to the airwaves to oppose the authorization of the Evyatar settlement, an outpost that Bennett has indicated he intends to normalize.

“There are enough ways to dissolve this agreement,” Bar-Lev told Army Radio on Sunday. “The Evyatar community [outpost] was illegal and illegal communities should be evacuated.”

First established in 2013, some 50 families and activists moved back to the site, located on a hilltop site off Route 505 near the Tapuah junction, in May. The site was chosen as route 505 links Samaria to the Jordan Valley; Jewish settlers want to establish a settlement there as they fear the Palestinians driving a wedge between the Jordan Valley and Samarian settlements.

In June, a deal was struck to persuade the settlers to leave voluntarily rather than face eviction by the IDF. The terms of the deal included the creation of a legalized settlement, likely as an outpost of nearby Kfar Tapuah, and the building of a yeshiva and an IDF base at the site.

The agreement also called for the IDF to survey the site to ensure that it was not owned by Palestinians, and to designate the land as state land to allow building to go ahead. Following the survey, the government would give the settlement the go-ahead.

That survey now appears to have been completed, and to show that there is enough state land to facilitate the new settlement. Consequently, the settlers are pushing the government to keep their promise.