When occupation is made legal – The latest chapter in a saga of expropriation and humiliation

 

The law approved by the Knesset legalizes Israel’s territorial occupation and adds a step to Netanyahu’s run towards the cancellation of any viability of the two-state solution

 

Last Monday the Israeli Knesset approved 60 to 52 the so-called Regulation Bill. According to this law, about 4,000 Israeli settlements built in the West Bank on private Palestinian land will obtain retroactive legitimization as long as the settlers can prove that they were not aware that land was Palestinian private property. Once this is proved, they will obtain the legal permit to remain in their houses, while the legitimate Palestinian owners will have two possibilities: either accept an alternative plot of land where such an offer does exist; or accept a financial compensation set by an ad hoc committee created by the Israeli government.

The Regulation Bill results from a proposal advanced over the past months by the ultra-right Jewish Home Party in reaction to the High Court’s decision to dismantle the illegal outpost of Amona. The choice to refer this proposal to the Knesset reveals thus Netanyahu’s need to find an uneasy balance between external and internal pressures. On the one hand, the Israeli PM has to take into account the stance of the international community and avoid policies that might condemn Israel to isolation; on the other hand, Netanyahu is leading a coalition government whose survivability depends on ultra-right parties (such as Jewish Home), which forces him to take into due consideration these parties’ requests.

That the proposal was not only submitted to the Knesset but even received its endorsement is then sign of a whole other series of factors –both internal and external- that characterize and influence today Israel’s politics.

Above all, the law’s approval reveals the high degree of influence that ultra-right groups have managed to carve out for themselves in the current political environment, where fra from being a marginal force they are a leading force capable of directing policies and law. Tightly linked to the ultra-right ascent is that of those groups that support the policy of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and that, over the past months, have obtained important victories (among the latest the announcement that 6,000 new settlements will soon be built).

Finally, the Knesset’s vote comes as latest confirmation of the renewed confidence of the Israeli Right in front of an American administration that has adopted until now a mild line on Israel’s settlements. After Monday’s vote, in fact, Trump’s government limited itself to make reference to a previous comment on how settlements “may not be helpful” in the framework of negotiating a future Israeli-Palestinian peace, but it postponed further comments to the Israeli Supreme Court’s upcoming pronouncement.

Different reactions, instead, have come from the international community, the Palestinian government, and also from leading figures and NGOs within Israel.

The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has condemned the vote as a violation of international law, and similar words also came from the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs who recalled the UNSC Resolution 2334 recently adopted in condemnation of Israel’s settlements.

In line with the international community was also the reaction of some Israeli NGOs such as Peace Now and Yesh Din that voiced their intention to appeal to the Supreme Court, as well as from the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit who warned against the adoption of a law that violates Palestinians’ property rights and who stated his refusal to defend the law.

On its part, the PLO defined the law a “legitimization of theft” that violates international law and ends any prospect of a two-state solution, and it declared its intention to appeal to the ICC to fight the impunity that Israel seems to enjoy in front of a Statute of Rome that should apply to all states.

After Monday’s vote, it is now to be waited for the Supreme Court’s verdict. In any case, the mere fact that the law met the approval of the Knesset confirms how the Israeli government is far from seeking a solution that leads to a Palestinian state ad how it aims on the contrary to have a single Jewish state built on as much land as possible and legitimized by any legal means possible.

 

[Picture Rights: Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]