Bill Doubling Compensation of Settlers in Event of Peace Passes First Knesset Reading

MK Bezalel Smotrich, a sponsor of the bill, says it comes to correct Oslo ‘mistake’ by government.

Bezalel Smotrich.
Olivier Fittousi

A bill that would double the compensation paid to settlers who have to evacuate property in the event of an accomodation with the Palestinians, passed its preliminary reading in the Knesset yesterday.

Sponsored by MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) and David Amsalem (Likud), the bill passed by a vote of 44-40.

Smotrich explained that the bill was intended to correct a “mistake” the Israeli government had made in the past.

“The Olso Accords were one great injustice accompanied by smaller injustices, one of which we intend correcting,” he said. “People bought land in Judea and Samaria, but were left unable to realize those lands, to live on, build on, or sell them, when 40 percent of the land was transferred to the Palestinian Authority under Oslo.”

According to the notes accompanying the bill, “The State of Israel is morally and legally obligated, inter alia by the power of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom, to protect a citizen’s property. On the other hand, the law provides mechanisms under which the state is permitted to deny the citizen his property while assuring his right to compensation, when this is done to serve a public need.

“The transfer of any authority – whether it be security, civilian or other – to a foreign country or to the Palestinian Authority, whether under an agreement or by a unilateral action by the state, presumably causes serious harm to the property rights of the Israeli citizens in that area, and could even completely deny them.”

MK Osama Saadia of the Joint Arab List said in response, “Enough with these bills by MK Smotrich who comes with a clear agenda and bends the government to his will, just like the [World Zionist Organization’s] Settlement Division. If you want to, cancel the Oslo Accords, why are you hiding? You are continuing the settlement enterprise, which constitutes a war crime, you’ve stolen hundreds of thousands of dunams from the Palestinians and now you want compensation?”

Also yesterday, the Knesset Finance Committee approved a transfer of 65 million shekels ($16.7 million) to the settlements, against the opposition of committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism.) Even as he approved the allocation, Gafni described it as the action of “greedy Sicarii.”

The funds, which will be transferred to local authorities in the territories by the Interior Ministry, are coming from the procurement budget of the Public Security Ministry. Some 33.2 million shekels will go directly to local authorities, while 32.3 million is designated as a grant for those communities designated as “young settlements,” which also got a grant in 2014.

“I spit on this transfer,” Gafni told the Finance Ministry representatives at a committee hearing. “I won’t let up about this clause. At the beginning of January I expect to get the recommendations of the committee that’s supposed to examine these criteria.”