Israel's Answer to World Condemnation: Supreme Court Will Overturn Land-grab Law

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 5, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 5, 2017.Credit: Emil Salman

The Foreign Ministry has instructed Israeli embassies to stress that the High Court will probably overturn the law legalizing unauthorized settlements – a message to diplomats, legislators and journalists designed to soften condemnation abroad.

A senior official in Jerusalem, speaking on condition of anonymity, noted that the Prime Minister’s Office drew up the talking points that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved. The diplomats were told not to organize press conferences or initiate discussion on the subject, but to use the talking points only when asked.

“Any law passed by the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) can be reviewed by the High Court of Justice, if challenged,” the list concludes.

Netanyahu apparently started using the talking points even before the Knesset voted Monday; this can be seen in the U.S. State Department’s response to the vote. A senior State Department official said Monday night that the High Court was expected to review the law, so his government would not respond until after the justices acted.

The official said this was the first time since 1967 Israeli civil law would be directly applied to the West Bank. He noted that the attorney general had said he would not defend the law in court. Netanyahu said Monday he had informed the U.S. administration in advance that the bill was coming up for a vote.

The Foreign Ministry's talking points.Credit: N/A

The other talking points include efforts to present the law positively. For example, the points stress that the law was only meant to solve the problems of homes “inadvertently built on land that is not state land.” The list fails to mention that the land is privately owned by Palestinians.

The points also say that the “majority of this construction took place decades ago,” but the law is also expected to allow the expropriation of private Palestinian land in the future, not just retroactively approve illegal construction.

According to one point, “It is important to note that the law addresses a limited number of existing cases and is in no way a license for land confiscation.” Likewise, the talking points do not mention that the homes were built illegally on Palestinian land.

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