Right-wing Lawmakers Seek to Legalize Largest West Bank Outpost

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Amona, in 2014. Residents knew the land was privately owned, said the state.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Habayit Hayehudi sought on Sunday to advance a bill regulating the expropriation of private Palestinian land in West Bank settlements, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opposition to such a bill.

The proposed law is intended to legitimize the Amona outpost, which was built illegally on private Palestinian land, and must be evacuated by December by order of the High Court of Justice.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, the chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, had said she wanted the panel to vote on the bill on Sunday, but the coalition faction heads ultimately decided to postpone the vote by a week. The attorney general, who took part in their meeting, asserted that the proposed legislation is unconstitutional. 

Ayelet Shaked, left, and Nafali Bennett during an party event, December 30, 2014.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Netanyahu has scuttled several previous attempts to pass such a bill, which enjoys strong support among Likud ministers.

Netanyahu recently appealed to Likud members, asking them to propose other ways of legitimizing the Amona, which is the largest outpost in the West Bank. A senior Likud official believes that if no solution is found and the outpost is moved, the coalition may fall apart.

The bill was resubmitted in June by Habayit Hayehudi whip MK Shuli Moalem, and will be brought to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, along with an identical proposal by Likud MK Yoav Kish. Netanyahu blocked and criticized a similar bill three years ago. “We respect the rule of law, yet strengthen the settlements, with no contradiction between the two,” he stated. “This bill will achieve the opposite, leading to evacuation of the outpost and harming the settlement enterprise.”

“Regulating Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria is the only way of solving problems such as Amona, which was established with government support,” said Moalem in June, upon submitting the bill. “It’s unjustified for the state to harass settlers, destroy their homes and expose them to legal action while presenting them as lawbreakers,” she stated.

The bill stipulates that Palestinian landowners will receive generous compensation, in the form of cash or alternate land, with buildings already in place on their legally approved land. The law will not allow them to object to the actual expropriation.

The right-wing NGO Regavim has reported that 2,026 structures have been built on private Palestinian land. Israel has never addressed the legal status of these structures. The bill is intended to bypass High Court of Justice rulings and to prevent discussions regarding future evacuation of settlements.

The chances of the bill moving forward are thought to be slim, because of the severe international censure it would likely trigger.

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