Netanyahu Blocks Settlement Annexation Bill From Coming to a Vote

The bill would apply Israeli sovereignty to the settlements, but Netanyahu says to hold off because of the security situation in the North- and to appease the U.S.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, February 1, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday blocked the advance of a bill to apply Israeli sovereignty to the settlements. The forum of coalition party heads, which convened to decide whether to support the bill, unanimously agreed to postpone the debate because of the security situation in the north.

According to Netanyahu, Israel had to avoid steps liable to embarrass the United States so as to reach understandings with the international community. The premier has used these arguments several times over the past few months in order to postpone various bills relating to annexing territories.

The bill, sponsored by MKs Yoav Kish (Likud) and Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) has broad support in the coalition, including from members of the Kulanu party. The bill presents an outline similar to the one approved by the Likud Central Committee a month and a half ago. It does not refer to the annexation of the entire West Bank, only to the settlements.

Under the bill, “The law, jurisdiction, administration and sovereignty of the State of Israel will apply to all areas of settlement in Judea and Samaria.” The text of the bill does not specify the areas to which it will apply, leaving that decision to the Knesset committee that will be tasked with preparing the proposal for its first reading. The bill itself calls for the justice minister to enact regulations to facilitate the annexation, subject to the approval of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

Netanyahu has recently blocked the advance of several bills aimed at applying Israeli sovereignty in the territories, among them the bill to annex Ma’aleh Adumim and a bill that would bring the settlements surrounding Jerusalem under the city’s jurisdiction. The Ministerial Committee on Legislation, meanwhile, keeps postponing decisions on other bills, including one that would allow Israelis to resettle two evacuated settlements in the northern West Bank and a bill giving settlements in the South Hebron Hills economic benefits similar to those given to Negev communities.