Amid Internal Dissent, Vote on Outpost-legalization Bill May Be Postponed

Government minister slams bill, saying other ministers are using it as an alibi for being unable to prevent recent evacuation of Amona.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chats with coalition chairman Tzahi Hanegbi as they attend a Likud meeting, Jerusalem, Israel, March 28, 2016.
Nir Elias, Reuters

The governing coalition has been in talks to postpone voting on the controversial outpost legalization bill, which is scheduled for tomorrow night.

Senior members of the coalition held talks with members of the opposition in recent days, examining the possibility of delaying the vote on the second and third readings in the full Knesset by a day.

Opposition MKs emphasized last week that they would not cooperate with the coalition, and it is unclear whether the vote will proceed as planned or be delayed.

The bill seeks to legalize the expropriation of Palestinian land for settlements, and has been criticized by Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit. He released a statement saying he could not defend the law in the High Court of Justice.

However, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Saturday the government is prepared to defend the law in the court.

“The government will take a private lawyer and the Knesset legal adviser,” she said last night on Channel 2’s “Meet the Press.” “If the ‘legalization law’ is [ruled unconstitutional], there are a number of administrative decisions that the attorney general has made and stands behind that legalize settlement,” she said.

A coalition minister on Saturday publicly criticized efforts to pass the bill. Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said: “This law is a political manipulation intended to provide an alibi to those who did not succeed in preventing the evacuation of Amona. People on the right did not have the courage to tell the settlers the truth – that it is reasonable to assume that it will not pass.”

Hanegbi said he expected the High Court to overturn the law, agreeing with what Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said last week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to be in London at the time of the planned vote, 10:30 P.M., so he will be unable to participate.

Netanyahu has played both sides concerning the advancement of the law in recent weeks: Even though he opposes the bill and warned of the international harm it would cause, he announced last week that he intended to bring the bill for immediate passage through the Knesset – at the same time as the illegal outpost of Amona was being forcefully evacuated by police.

In a surprise move last week, coalition chairman MK David Bitan (Likud) opted to postpone the votes on the bill until this week.

MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) also slammed the proposed law. “The ‘legalization law’ causes us more damage than all of Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem or any other organization,” she said. “It tells the world that the government of Israel supports the expropriation of private land and does not care about international law.

“Netanyahu has already said the law will lead to the [UN] Security Council and the [International Criminal Court in] The Hague,” she added. “We have already gotten the Security Council; passing the law will lead IDF soldiers to The Hague.”