If right-wing MKs don't come to their senses at the last moment, the current Knesset will sully the reputation of Israel's parliament with deliberations and a vote on two bills that have no place in an enlightened, law-abiding, democratic country.
Their innocuous titles - "a bill for the protection of landholders in Judea and Samaria" and "a bill for the protection of the rights of the builders of structures in Judea and Samaria" - obscure criminal intent to retroactively approve illegal and unauthorized construction on West Bank land owned by helpless Palestinians.
Moreover, the bills are designed to thwart the rulings of the country's highest court. In their exuberance to defend intruders and unscrupulous developers, the supporters of these so-called arrangement laws are exceeding the Knesset's authority and seeking to create facts beyond Israel's borders.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is aware of the damage laws like this would inflict on Israel's foreign relations. He certainly understands that official approval of the confiscation of Palestinians' property would intensify international pressure regarding the settlements that have been built with the government's authorization.
In an attempt to counter the bills and soften criticism from the right, Netanyahu has been liberally promising compensation to settlers if they would be so good to obey the High Court of Justice's orders. The prime minister has committed to have 10 homes built in the settlement of Beit El for every home demolished.
Israeli construction in the occupied territories is not a consolation prize for people whom the state and court have accused of serious breaches of the law. The settlements are a core issue to be thrashed out in talks for a final peace agreement. Until then, Israel should not expand settlements in areas such as Beit El east of the separation fence in the heart of a densely populated Palestinian area.
The prime minister is finding it hard to evict a few intruders to carry out a court order when he has the support of a broad coalition of 94 MKs. So the Israeli public, the Palestinians and the international community are wondering if he could ever evacuate large numbers of settlers for the sake of peace.
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