An Israeli government committee has voted to press ahead with laws to retroactively legalise 2,000 homes in West Bank outposts currently deemed illegal under Israeli law, and to curtail the Muslim call to prayer through loudspeakers.
The settlement vote was opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit, who said it was indefensible.
It was pushed through the Ministerial Legislative Committee by the ultra-nationalist Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, in order to avoid the demolition of Amona, an outpost built on private Palestinian land, and home to about 40 settlers.
A judge, considering ownership, recently ruled that Amona had been built illegally and ordered the settlers to evacuate by 25 December.
Mandelblit had earlier said Shaked’s law would legalise the confiscation of private property, in contravention of international law, as it would apply to thousands of other units in 97 outposts dotted around the West Bank, which have been built on private Palestinian land without government approval.
Herzog was damning in his criticism of the proposed law, which must still pass through parliament, saying it was “a serious stain on Israeli law,” because it “authorises theft and robbery”.
Anti-occupation organisation Yesh Din said: “This bill is discriminatory and authorises exploitation – confiscation of Palestinian landowners’ ability to make use of their land, denying them the right to appeal.”
Lieberman said that, as U.S. president, Donald Trump would take a softer line on settlements, so a bill legalising outposts currently deemed illegal even in Israel was badly timed. “We cannot create facts on the ground and embarrass the incoming administration,” he said. Everything must be agreed and coordinated.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he would go to the United Nations about both the settlements and the vote to limit loudspeaker volumes, which would mainly affect Muslim Israelis, who rely on them for their call to prayer.