Israeli Justice Minister Moves to Legalize West Bank Settlements – Newsweek
Israel’s justice minister on Tuesday announced the creation of a committee to “address the legal status of West Bank lands” as a precursor to the potential legalisation of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. Such settlements are currently defined as illegal under international law by the United Nations.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a member of the ultra-nationalist, pro-settlement Jewish Home party, led by Naftali Bennett, said that the committee was established to put an end to Jewish settlers’ fears about the legality of their homes in the West Bank.
“There are many areas in Judea and Samaria where the status is unregulated,” she said, referring to the West Bank. “The time has come to dispel the legal fog and to enable the residents of Judea and Samaria—most of them in settlements set up by generations of Israeli governments—to stop worrying about the constant threat to the very ownership of their homes.”
While such state committees can take as long as a year to discuss an issue and present findings, Shaked’s panel is to fast-track its conclusions within 60 days. The committee is to be led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet secretary, Avichai Mandelblit.
The committee’s creation was previously agreed to in coalition negotiations between Netanyahu’s centre-right Likud party and Shaked’s Jewish Home faction, the Times of Israel reported.
The panel is to begin its work this week and will seek to make recommendations to the Israeli government on the regulation of settlement land’s status in the West Bank. It will look at what West Bank lands are privately owned and the proof of ownership required of claimants to different areas. The panel, therefore, could recommend the legalisation of a number of properties on a case-by-case basis as opposed to a blanket legalisation of all West Bank settlement properties.
Ron Gilran, a vice-president at the Levantine Group, a Tel Aviv-based geopolitical risk consultancy says that, while it remains to be seen if the committee’s findings will be presented before the Knesset, Netanyahu is likely to prevent them from becoming government policy because of the potential international and domestic outcry.
“Even if the committee submits conclusions that under very specific circumstances could lead to legalising certain outposts I believe this will lead to strong international but also domestic criticism,” he says.
“Such conclusions will likely encourage Netanyahu to find ways to sweep them under the rug, or – less likely—to claim that the conclusions only apply to very marginal cases, and thus do not comprise any opening the door for annexation,” he adds.
Israeli NGO Yesh Din, which focuses on Palestinian rights in the West Bank, has condemned Shaked’s move to set-up the committee.
“Even the establishment of 100 committees won’t resolve the contradiction between the retroactive legalisation of outposts and neighbourhoods that were established in continual violation of the law and the rule of law,” the NGO said in a statement, as cited in Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz.
“The significance of a sweeping regulation is to establish a mechanism for forced land expropriation and cancellation of the property rights of Palestinians in the West Bank.”
In 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council presented a report claiming that Israel repeatedly violated international law in its policy of settlement creation and requested a removal of all of the West Bank’s settlers and “cease all settlement activities without preconditions.” Israel did not cooperate with the council on the matter and Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time, dismissed the report as giving “Israel a raw deal.”
Last July, Shaked caused controversy during the Gaza war when she posted an excerpt of an article by right-wing Israeli writer Uri Elitzur which refers to Palestinian children as “little snakes.”
“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads,” the post read. Following her appointment into the Israeli coalition government, Shaked was assigned her own security detail because of death threats made against her on social media.
Shaked’s spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.