Legalizing settlements

The Arrangements Bill that would legalize settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) that are built on supposedly private Palestinian land (but only in Area C of the West Bank under full Israeli control) was delayed initially until after the accession of Pres. Trump and has been delayed again until after the situation of the Amona settlement is concluded. This subject has been a point of contention in the past, with the left in Israel and the liberal-left in the West, supported by former Pres Obama and the EU, claiming that all Jewish settlements there are illegal.

If a Palestinian individual or a village went to court and claimed that land belonged to them, the Israel Supreme Court would always stop or delay the construction of the settlement pending proof of the claim.  That could hold up construction for years.  Even where the land was totally unused or worthless and was not being planned for any purpose.  Also, many of the claims could not be proven because there was no written documentary evidence.  But, this is a tactic that the Palestinians and their supporters used to stop Israeli settlement activity.

Also, there is a widely held political belief that the West Bank is all “Palestinian territory,” but that is not true, it is merely propaganda.  The existence of the Palestine Authority and its control of area A of the West Bank was agreed by Israel in the Oslo Accords of 1993. Israel continued to control Area C and Area B is under joint control.  There is not and has never been any Palestinian entity with sovereignty of the West Bank . Only Israel should have sovereignty as the successor to the British Palestine Mandate that was established in 1922 for the explicit purpose of establishing a Jewish Homeland in Palestine.  No Arab “homeland” was mentioned in these documents, and in fact four other Arab States were formed from the French Mandate (Syria and Lebanon) and British Mandate for Mesopotamia (Iraq and Kuwait).  Arabia was conquered by the Saudis in 1932 and the Gulf States were under a British Protectorate until 1971.

One reason this legislation came about was because of the situation of the Amona Settlement, that was declared unlawful by the Israel Supreme Court because it is built (partly) on private Palestinian Land.  Presumably in that case the proof was sufficient, and the Government said that after 20 years the settlement would have to be demolished and the people moved.  But, to avoid a conflict an agreement was reached between various political parties to introduce this bill legalizing settlements on private Palestinian land, and applying this retroactively to other settlements (affecting ca. 4,000 established homes), but not applying this to Amona, because the Supreme Court has already ruled on that case.  However, the people of Amona and their supporters did not accept this ruling and have resisted the Government takeover and demolition.  Yesterday they met the deadline for evacuation with some violence, but 1,700 supporters were removed by the police and then the demolition began.

If you think that this legislation is wrong or inappropriate, because private ownership should prevent the Government declaring a settlement legal, then think again.  All over the world, including the US, the UK, China and so on, Governments declare “eminent domain” in order to take private land for national purposes, often for development. Sometimes it may appear unfair, as when Chinese peasants are expropriated from ancestral villages to make way for the large-scale development of Beijing.  But, in the case of the West Bank, no Palestinians are being forced off their land, only unused and often unusable land, is being appropriated with compensation to the owner,so that Jews can live there – legally.  Also yesterday, partly in compensation for the loss of Amona, Netanyahu announced the approval of the first new settlement since 1991.  This is no doubt in response to the fact that the Trump Administration has not issued any negative response to the previous announcements of new building of thousands of homes in existing settlements.

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