Netanyahu Asks to Delay Vote on Legalizing Expropriation of Palestinian Land

Sources say prime minister wishes to coordinate the vote with the Trump administration, but Minister Bennett refused. Netanyahu: 'I keep hearing fake ultimatums.'

New prefab homes erected in Ofra for relocation of Amona settlers.
The settlement of Ofra, where nine homes are slated for demolition after the court ruled they were built on privately owned Palestinian land. Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a request to defer a Knesset vote slated for Monday on legislation that would legalize settlers' home built on privately owned Palestinian land. The request, which was made at a weekly meeting of coalition party leaders, came after the prime minister said that the bill is expected to come up for a vote Monday as planned.

Two sources who asked not to be named said that at the meeting with the other party leaders, the prime minister asked for a deferral of the vote but Education Minister Naftali Bennett refused. "Netanyahu is trying to do everything he can to delay the vote," one of the sources said.

Netanyahu later attacked Bennett, the leader of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, and said: "I keep hearing all the time fake ultimatums… there are people who are busy with futile arguments in the media and social networks. I'm busy running the state. I think of our overall interest, the national interest. I'm acting only by it." The remarks suggests that the vote could be postponed.

Senior members of the Habayit Hayehudi party told Haaretz that as far as they are concerned there is no change of plans. The bill will be brought to a vote Monday and will be aproved by the Knesset on Monday.

At the early meeting with cabinet members from his party, Netanyahu said that although there was one aspect of the bill that needed to be examined, it would come to a vote on Monday as planned. Likud ministers present said they thought the issue that required examination needed to be coordinated with the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

In addition, a source recounting the discussion at the later meeting of party leaders said the prime minister wished to coordinate the timing of the vote with the Trump administration and also wanted to speak to Israel's ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, on the matter.

One of the ministers present at the meeting of party leaders noted that Netanyahu said he wishes to defer the vote "until after the trip." The ministers at the meeting said it was not clear to them if this was a reference to a trip to London that the prime minister left for on Sunday and from which he will be returning on Monday or whether it referred to his trip to Washington to meet with President Trump in another ten days, from which he will return in two weeks. One minister said it was his impression that the reference was to the later trip.

The bill would allow the state to declare private Palestinian land on which settlements or outposts were built, “in good faith or at the state’s instruction” as government property, and deny its owners the right to use or hold those lands until there is a diplomatic resolution of the status of the territories.

The purpose of the bill, the revised version says, is to “regulate settlement in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and allow its continued establishment and development.”

The measure provides a mechanism for compensating Palestinians whose lands will be seized. A landowner can receive an annual usage payment of 125 percent of the land’s value as determined by an assessment committee for renewable periods of 20 years, or an alternate plot of land if this is possible, whichever he chooses.