Netanyahu Seeking to Bury Bill Legalizing Israeli Landgrab of Private Palestinian Lands

Prime minister voted in favor of bill in first reading, but sources say he intends to keep it in limbo due to repercussions for Israel's diplomatic standing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett at the Knesset last month.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to bury the proposed law to legalize the construction of settlements on private Palestinian land in the West Bank. The bill has already passed its first reading the Knesset, but Netanyahu has no intention of allowing it to advance any further. For now, the bill will be frozen and Netanyahu does not intend to set a date for a vote, sources close to the prime minister told Haaretz.

Netanyahu opposed the law from the beginning because of the implications on Israel’s diplomatic standing in the world, but voted in favor of the law after Education Minister Naftali Bennett succeeded in having the Ministerial Committee on Legislation back the bill, with the support of the Likud ministers on the committee.

After passing its first reading, the bill is now stuck in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which would have to approve the bill before it could return to the Knesset plenum for its second and third readings. So far, all the votes in the committee on the proposed law have been put off.

Originally it was agreed with Bennett that the bill would advance only after Donald Trump is sworn in as the new president of the United States. But after the passage of the United Nations Security Council Resolution on the settlements, which was partially attributed by Security Council members to the so-called “regularization bill,” Netanyahu had second thoughts about the bill.

On Monday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at a meeting of Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset members that “it seems the law will not be passed.”

In a briefing for the press, coalition whip MK David Bitan (Likud) said the goal is to find a legal solution for the settlements, and if such a solution is found then the bill will be made superfluous.

If the bill is not passed in the next few months, the ball will then be in Bennett’s court – which would be a good thing for him regardless of what happens. If the bill does pass in the end, Bennett will certainly take credit for it; while if it does not pass Bennett can use that against Netanyahu in the next election campaign to emphasize the differences between himself and the Likud leader.