The Israeli Parliament passed the Settlement Regularization Law on the 6th of February. This law allows Israel to retroactively legalise 4,000 settler homes on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank. The law stipulates that settlers could legally stay there if they had no knowledge that the land was privately owned before building or if the homes were built under the instruction of the Israeli government. Palestinians would be financially compensated for the land. The land will remain seized by the Israeli government until a peace deal has been reached between Israel and Palestine. The legislation passed by a vote of 60 to 52 in the Israeli parliament.
A joint petition was filed on the 8th of February to the Israeli Supreme Court against this legislation by attorneys from human rights groups (Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, The Jerusalem Legal Aid Center and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza) and seventeen Palestinian municipalities, calling for the law to be cancelled due to violations of international law and for being unconstitutional. Under international law, “The confiscation of private property by the occupant is prohibited” and “The destruction or seizure of enemy property is prohibited, unless absolutely required by military necessity during the conduct of hostilities”, as stated in the 1907 Hague Regulations and the fourth Geneva Convention. The petitioners are also calling for the Supreme Court to issue an injunction against the implementation of the law until the court issues a judgement on the case.
Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said that the law violates international law and that he will not defend it in court. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu supported the bill. This law has been condemned by members of the international community including Germany, Britain, France, the European Union and the United Nations. President Trump has declined to make any comment until a ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court regarding the bill has been reached.
The Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by many countries. According to the B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories From 1967 to 2013, 152 Israeli settlements have been established in the West Bank in addition to 100 outposts and Jewish settlements in Hebron which receive government support. As of 2013, the population of the West Bank settlements was 350,010 in addition to 196,890 people living in Israeli neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. The West Bank is not a part of Israel’s sovereign territory, yet the settlers and settlements are subject to Israeli law. Palestinians live under martial law under Israeli occupation.
This law is an impediment for both states to reach a peaceful resolution to their conflict. It pushes further away from a two-state solution, where both Israel and Palestine become independent states. It would be best if the Israeli Supreme Court deems this law unconstitutional and in violation of international law, so that the two states can work together towards a peace agreement rather than increasing tensions and anger.
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