Controversial Legalisation bill approved by Ministers despite PM’s objections

The Knesset Ministerial Committee for Legislation has approved a controversial set of measures to retrospectively legalise West Bank outposts, despite being opposed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

The Legalisation Bill was proposed by Jewish Home party MKs and prompted by the Supreme Court’s decision to order the demolition of 40 homes in Amona, an outpost in the West Bank established in 1995 with a government grant, because the homes were illegally built on private Palestinian land. The Court gave the Government until December 25, 2016 to demolish the homes, although Netanyahu has requested a seven-month postponement in order to look into alternative housing options for the residents. A proposal in October to compensate the residents with alternative building permits, also over the green line, met with international opposition.

The bill would legalise Amona and similar areas in the West Bank. This would  allow the residents to remain in their homes and compensate any Palestinians who could prove ownership of the land with a choice of either 125% of the value of the land or an alternative plot of land. Opposition MKs have argued that the bill would undermine the status of the courts in Israel as well as Israel’s international position.

Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett rejected the Attorney General view that he would be unable to defend the bill before the Supreme Court because it authorised the confiscation of privately owned land. Bennett also opposed Netanyahu’s plan to wait for the Court’s response to the request for a postponement, before pursuing other options. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s accused Bennett of being motivated by personal electoral considerations rather than public policy, prompting Bennett and Justice Minster Ayelet Shaked to leave the cabinet meeting.

Despite the political furore and Netanyahu’s opposition, the Bill was approved by the Ministerial Committee yesterday. It will now be debated in the Knesset.

Ma’ariv’s Ben Caspit described the political manoeuvres: “If we were to take three packed seasons of House of Cards and squeeze them into a single day, we would get what we had yesterday. Complete chaos, or perhaps a complete breakdown, would be an accurate description of what happened.”

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