The Israeli Knesset on Monday night is scheduled to vote on the so-called “Regularization Bill,” which, if passed, will appropriate hundreds of hectares of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank by legalizing — under Israeli law — thousands of settlement units built on privately owned Palestinian land.
The bill would legalise at least 3,921 Israeli settlement units in the occupied West Bank built in contravention of Israeli and international law, and would be the first time the Israeli government has applied civil law to land officially recognised as Palestinian-owned in the occupied West Bank, according to Amichai Cohen, an Israeli law professor who spoke to AFP.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem remain illegal under international law.
Hours before the scheduled vote, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, released a statement condemning the bill and “urging” Israeli legislators to reconsider the move.
“If adopted into law, it will have far-reaching legal consequences for Israel and greatly diminish the prospects for Arab-Israeli peace,” Mladenov said. “The bill has been deemed unconstitutional by the Attorney General of Israel and is in contravention of international law.”
On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has recently voiced support for the bill, reportedly requested that the vote be postponed because of “one aspect of the bill that needed to be examined,” according to sources speaking to Israeli daily Haaretz.
Israeli Education Minister and leader of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party, Naftali Bennett, and his supporters reportedly shot down the request.
While the vote is scheduled to happen at 10:30 p.m. in Israel, Anat Ben Nun, a spokesperson for Peace Now, an Israeli NGO and activist group aimed at promoting a two-state solution, told Mondoweiss that the vote could still possibly be postponed.
Ben Nun said Netanyahu’s support for the bill was an attempt to “divert the public debate” from corruption allegations levied against him, as well as a move to “satisfy the extreme right wing.”
“Netanyahu is promoting legislation that he himself argued will lead Israel to the ICC,” Ben Nun said, referring to the International Criminal Court. “By passing this law, Netanyahu makes theft an official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books. By giving a green light to settlers to build illegally on private Palestinian land, the legalization law is another step towards annexation and away from a two-state solution.”
MK Aida Touma-Suliman (Joint List), told Mondoweiss that she believes the bill, which she called “part of the crawling annexation” of Palestinian land will be passed.
“It looks like it has enough support in the Knesset to go through,” the MK said.
The MK added that she believes the bill is a reaction to the UN security council resolution passed in December, which demanded a halt of all Israeli settlement activity on occupied Palestinian territory.
“We will vote against the law and do all of our efforts to stop it,” Touma-Suliman said. “We call upon the international community to act immediately to stop it or punish the occupation if the bill is passed.”
On Monday, Haaretz released a damning editorial, criticizing the bill.
“The bill doesn’t aim to ‘regularize’ but to steal,” the editors wrote.
“If the vote takes place, the majority of our lawmakers will raise their hands to approve a bill that will steal land from Palestinians,” the continued. “The theft will come after the fact; to accommodate settlements and outposts that were built on private land, the land will be expropriated from its owners, while the thieves living on it will be granted ‘the presumption of innocence.’”
Meanwhile, the Palestine Liberation Organisation called the bill a “declaration of war.”
Mladenov’s statement reiterated that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, adding that settlements and settlement expansion “present one of the main impediments to peace.