Knesset Supports Bill to Legalize Expropriation of Palestinian Land in First Reading

The legislation, which would not apply to the illegal outpost of Amona, slated for evacuation under a court order, passes 58 to 51.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Minister Bennett, Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Knesset ahead of the vote, December 7, 2016.
Minister Bennett, Prime Minister Netanyahu at the Knesset ahead of the vote, December 7, 2016.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The Knesset voted on Wednesday in support of a bill to legalize unauthorized West Bank outposts in the West Bank in first reading. The legislation passed 58 to 51. MK Benny Begin (Likud), a member of the ruling coalition, opposed the bill.

If approved in three Knesset readings, the bill would legalize Israeli settlement homes built on private Palestinian land. The legislation - in its new version, which was submitted on Monday - will not apply to the illegal outpost of Amona, slated for evacuation by December 25 under a court order.

Unlike the previous version of the bill, the new one says that the state would give the settlers usage rights to privately owned Palestinian land, rather than ownership rights. In another change, the bill only applies to settlements that the government helped establish. Palestinians who can prove ownership of land would receive compensation.

Speaking on behalf of the opposition, lawmaker Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) said that, "A real leader would look Amona residents in the eye and tell the truth – that Israel is a lawful state, and that it is sad, but they must leave [their homes]."

The illegal outpost of Amona, November, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman

"What is left from the Herut Movement (the Likud's predecessor) and Menachem Begin is only Benny Begin," she said. "Today Netanyahu and his friends are kicking Begin together with integrity and legitimize theft."

Benny Begin, the son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was suspended on Tuesday from the Knesset Legislative Committee for three weeks as punishment for voting against the bill in a preliminary Knesset vote.

Earlier on Wednesday, in unusually strong language, Germany urged Israel to scrap the bill, saying this would break international law. "We're extremely concerned about this development and have noted with consternation statements made by Israeli government officials during this debate.

"Such a bill violates international law," a German Foreign Ministry spokesman told a government news conference, adding that Israel would undermine its commitment to finding a "two-state solution" - a Palestinian state in territory Israel captured in a 1967 war - if the bill were passed.

Asked whether Germany and the European Union should punish Israel with economic or diplomatic sanctions, the spokesman said: "We don't think that sanctions would be the right path in this case to make headway in the Middle East peace process."

The Knesset backed the bill in a preliminary vote on Monday in a new version that would not apply to Amona, which the High Court of Justice has said must be evacuated by December 25.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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