Israel freezes controversial settlement law

A picture taken from Hebron shows a Palestinian boy riding a horse, with the Israeli settlement of Givat Harsina appearing in the background, West Bank, February 5, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2017

Israel freezes controversial settlement law

JERUSALEM: Israel’s Supreme Court has frozen implementation of a law legalizing dozens of Jewish settlements built on private Palestinian land, which the UN labelled a “thick red line.”
Court documents seen by AFP Friday show that Judge Neal Hendel issued Thursday an open-ended restraining order suspending a bill passed by parliament that would retroactively legalize a number of outposts across the occupied West Bank.
The decision was in response to a petition brought by 17 Palestinian local councils on whose land the settlements are built.
Israeli and Palestinian rights groups were also parties to the petition.
Hendel wrote in his decision that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit had asked him to grant the order.
It did not specify a time limit but demanded that Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, deliver its response by September 10 and that Mandelblit submit an opinion by October 16.
The act, known as the “legalization law,” was passed in February and brought immediate condemnation from around the world.
International law considers all settlements to be illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not — so-called outposts.
Mandelblit himself warned the government the law could be unconstitutional and risked exposing Israel to international prosecution for war crimes.
UN envoy for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov said following the February Knesset vote the bill set a “very dangerous precedent.”
“This is the first time the Israeli Knesset legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues,” he told AFP at the time.
“That crosses a very thick red line.”
The act allows Israel to appropriate Palestinian private land on which settlers built without knowing it was private property or because the state allowed them to do so.
Palestinian landowners whose property was taken for settlers would be compensated with cash or given alternative plots.
Palestinians said the law was a means to “legalize theft” and France called it a “new attack on the two-state solution.”
Some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government advocate the annexation of much of the West Bank, a move that would end any hope of an independent Palestinian state.
Mladenov said that the “legalization law” could be a prelude to that.
“It opens the potential for the full annexation of the West Bank and therefore undermines substantially the two-state solution,” he said after its passing.


Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

Updated 11 December 2019

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

  • On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2
  • New elections would add to the political challenges facing Benjamin Netanyahu
JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament began rushing through a bill on Wednesday to call a third general election within a year as talks between embattled premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival broke down ahead of a midnight deadline.
A deal to avert a new election must be reached before 11:59 p.m. (2159 GMT), following a deadlocked vote in September.
But Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, both of whom have repeatedly failed to build a governing majority in the Knesset, or parliament, have spent days trading blame for failing coalition talks.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2.
It must face three more plenary readings and votes during the day before being passed.
New elections would add to the political challenges facing Netanyahu — Israel’s longest serving premier, now governing in a caretaker capacity — at a time when, weakened by corruption charges, he must fend off internal challengers in his right-wing Likud party.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had been discussing a potential unity government, but disagreed on who should lead it.
Last month, when Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, Gantz called on him to step down.
On Tuesday night Netanyahu called on Gantz to stop “spinning.”
“After 80 days, it’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government. It’s not too late,” he said on social media.
Gantz said his party was making “efforts to find a way to form a government without us giving up the fundamental principles that brought us into politics.”
If confirmed, it would be the first time Israel’s weary electorate has been asked to go to the polls for a third time within 12 months.
The parties of Netanyahu and Gantz were nearly deadlocked in September’s election, following a similarly inconclusive poll in April.
Israel’s proportional system is reliant on coalition building, and both parties fell well short of the 61 seats needed to command a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Both were then given 28-day periods to try and forge a workable coalition but failed, forcing President Reuven Rivlin to turn to parliament with his deadline for Wednesday.
New elections are deeply unpopular with the Israeli public, which has expressed mounting anger and frustration with the entire political class.
Both parties had been trying to convince Avigdor Lieberman, a crucial kingmaker, to join their blocs.
But the former nightclub bouncer, whose secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party holds the balance of power, has refused.
Kann Radio reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had abandoned hopes of earning Lieberman’s endorsement.
Lieberman pointed out that Likud and Blue and White wouldn’t need his support if they could agree to work together.
“If during the next 24 hours a government is not formed it will be solely because the leaders of the two big parties — Likud and Blue and White — were not willing to set aside their egos,” he said on Facebook Tuesday.
“All the rest is lies and excuses.”
Netanyahu was indicted last month for bribery, breach of trust and fraud relating to three separate corruption cases.
He strongly denies the allegations and accuses the media, police and prosecution of a witch-hunt.
No date has yet been set for the beginning of the proceedings and, under Israeli law, Netanyahu can remain in office despite an indictment.
He also faces a potential challenge from within his own Likud party.
To boost his support, Netanyahu has pushed his plan to annex a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, as well as signing a defense treaty with the United States.
He is a close ally of US President Donald Trump, who has taken a number of controversial steps in support of Netanyahu’s agenda.
Blue and White, meanwhile, pledged Monday to run with only one leader in the next election — Gantz.
Previously Yair Lapid, second in command in the coalition, was meant to alternate the premiership, but on Monday Lapid said: “We’ll all get behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister.”
Despite Netanyahu’s indictment, polls suggest that a third round of elections could still be neck and neck — prompting some Israelis to speculate about yet another electoral stalemate.
A commentary writer for the Israel Hayom newspaper suggested that “a fourth election is even now visible on the horizon sometime in early September 2020.”