A bill that would provide government funding to Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank established without government permission passed a preliminary vote in the Knesset on Wednesday. It would need to pass three additional votes if it is to become law.
Some Knesset members from Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan party voted in favor of the measure, which was introduced by Bezalel Smotrich of Yamina and Haim Katz of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. The legislation would provide retroactive government approval to the outposts and give residents there municipal services while the approval process is being completed.
The bill came to a vote after Gantz, who is alternate prime minister and defense minister, rejected a similar cabinet resolution. Despite the lack of cabinet backing for the measure, which was therefore introduced as a private member’s bill, it garnered support from the Likud party and from three members of Kahol Lavan – Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Knesset member Hila Shay Vazan – who received Gantz’s permission to vote in favor of it in Wednesday’s vote.
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“The cabinet decided to settle the status of buildings and neighborhoods that have been established in Judea, in Samaria and in the Jordan Valley over the past 20 years,” explanatory notes to the legislation state, referring to three areas constituting the entire West Bank, “but implementation of the decision has been delayed. To prevent unnecessary harm to the residents, as an interim step, their special status should be enshrined in law and the residents permitted the normal life that every citizen deserves, as well as preventing unnecessary demolitions and evictions.”
The bill would require that all government entities recognize the neighborhoods and settlement communities, including for purposes of government funding, assistance with infrastructure and the construction of schools and other public buildings.
“This is a first victory for young communities,” Smotrich said following the Knesset vote, using a term that refers to the outposts, “but it’s just the beginning of the road. We need to pass this bill on three [additional] readings next week. Mr. Prime Minister, the ball is in your court. Don’t let Gantz bring anything to the cabinet without this.”
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The chairwoman of the left-wing Meretz party’s Knesset faction, Tamar Zandberg, said in response to the vote: “The members of the failed and out-of-touch cabinet together with a portion of Kahol Lavan who got their seats on the backs of left-wing voters have chosen to cooperate with the most messianic and extreme [people]. The vote is not only contrary to a ruling by the High Court of Justice, but also does critical harm to the country and the rights of millions of people.”
For her part, Knesset member Aida Touma-Sliman of the largely Arab Joint List called the bill “a war crime under the auspices of the Knesset.”