France Urges Israel to Take Back Land-grab Law: Honor Your International Commitments

France joins Britain, Turkey and Jordan in condemnation of new law that legalizes expropriation of Palestinian land. Law threatens viability of two-state solution, British minister says.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaks during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Gibran Bassil, at the Lebanese foreign ministry, in Beirut, Lebanon.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, speaks during a joint press conference with his Lebanese counterpart Gibran Bassil, at the Lebanese foreign ministry, in Beirut, Lebanon. Bilal Hussein/AP

France called on Israel on Tuesday to "take back" the so-called "Regularization Law" passed by the Israeli Knesset on Monday night, which enables the expropriation of private Palestinian land.

"I call on Israel to honor its international commitments and take back this law," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement.

>> Get all updates on Israel and the Palestinians: Download our free App, and Subscribe >>

"The law is another blow to the two-state solution," Ayrault said, joining Britain, Turkey and Jordan in condemnation of the law. The French foreign minister also noted that the closing statement by the Paris peace summit concluded that the two-states solution is the only way to bring a just and sustainable peace in the Middle East.

The new law allows 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.

>> Explained: Israel's controversial new land-grab law <<

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.

Britain also condemned the law. "The bill paves the way for significant growth in settlements deep in the West Bank, threatening the viability of the two-state solution," said Tobias Ellwood, the Commonwealth Affairs minister for the Middle East and Africa.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May greets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at Downing Street in London, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017.
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

"I condemn the passing of the Land Regularization Bill by the Knesset, which damages Israel’s standing with its international partners," he said.

The new law allows 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 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.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met his British counterpart Theresa May in London on Monday, where the U.K. prime minister told him that the bill is unhelpful and would make things more difficult for Israel's friends around the world.

Minutes before the meeting, May's spokesman told the British press that the prime minister plans to tell Netanyahu she opposes settlement activity in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Jordan and Turkey also condemned the law on Tuesday morning. Jordan's Minister of Information Mohammed al-Mumani termed the law a "provocation" and stressed that it harms the possibility of the two-state solution and could lead to violent escalation in the region. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the law was unacceptable and that the policy of the Israeli government is destroying any basis for the two-state solution.

Also on Tuesday, Haaretz learned that a summit between Israel and the European Union scheduled for February 28 will be postponed in light of the land-grab law and a surge in settlement construction in the West Bank.

European diplomats noted that the meeting had already been delayed for five years, and was meant to signify a thawing in the relations between Israel and the EU.

The United Nations' Mideast envoy said the law crossed a "very thick red line." Nickolay Mladenov said the legislation "opens the floodgates to the potential annexation of the West Bank." If Israel moves to solidify its control over the area, it would imperil the internationally backed idea of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel as part of a negotiated peace deal, he said.

"It will have a drastic legal consequence for Israel and for the nature of its democracy," Mladenov said. "It crosses a very, very thick red line."

AP contributed to this report