EU slams Israel’s new settlements law
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s foreign policy chief said Israel’s new legislation on settlements was illegal and would “entrench a one-state reality of unequal rights.”
The statement Tuesday by Federica Mogherini, the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, came a day after the Knesset passed the so-called outpost bill, which retroactively legalizes thousands of West Bank settlement homes built on land owned by Palestinians.
“This law crosses a new and dangerous threshold,” she wrote, by “effectively authorizing the confiscation of privately owned Palestinian land in occupied territory.” If implemented, it would lead to “perpetual occupation and conflict.”
Separately, the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Israel — a body responsible for maintaining and developing parliamentarian ties between Jerusalem and Brussels — called on the European Union not to hurt trade with Israel over this issue.
Fulvio Martusciello, the chair of the delegation, issued the call last week during a discussion about the economic implications of the European Union’s critical attitude toward Israel’s presence in the West Bank and other disputed territories.
“The European Union recognizes the importance of trade with Israel, and that is why we must be careful not to penalize the products that come from all parts of Israel’s territory,” Martusciello said, adding that boycotts are “criminal and violent.”
Martusciello’s organization scheduled the Feb. 2 discussion following the support of leading EU members states for the anti-settlement resolution passed on Dec. 23 at the U.N. Security Council, and amid efforts to realize EU regulations from 2015 requiring separate labeling for products from Israel’s disputed territories.
At the event, the CEO of the wine importer Casimex, Sydney Knafou, complained that these developments risked creating substantial financial damage to his E.U.-based business.
“Many of my peers, active in different European economic sectors, confirmed that their business will likely suffer serious harm from the passage and implementation of further regulations which distinguish between any territories currently controlled by Israel,” he said.
Palestinians petition Supreme Court in first challenge to Israeli legalization of West Bank outposts
JERUSALEM — Palestinian entities have petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to overturn a controversial new law that retroactively legalizes settler homes built on private Palestinian land.
In the petition filed Wednesday, 17 West Bank municipalities and three Palestinian human rights groups from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel claimed the legislation violates international humanitarian law and asked the court to issue a temporary injunction against its implementation.
The regulation law, which the Knesset passed in a raucous late-night session Monday, allows the state to seize private Palestinian land on which settlements or outposts were built, as long as the settlers were not aware of the status of the land. In cases where the landowners are known, they are entitled to compensation.
The Palestinian groups argue the law violates the protections that international law gives property owners. Further, they say, it harms the dignity of the Palestinians living in the West Bank by putting the interests of the settlers above theirs. Attached to the petition were aerial photographs of settlements built on land within the Palestinian municipalities.
The pro-settlement Jewish Home party first put forward the regulation law in an effort to save the West Bank outpost of Amona, built without government authorization on private Palestinian land, from a High Court-ordered demolition. But the clause that would have circumvented the court ruling was nixed following coalition infighting, and Amona was evacuated last week and demolished Tuesday.
Even without the Amona clause, Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, has said he would not defend the law before the Supreme Court. It was the first time that an Israeli attorney general has made such a refusal, legal experts told JTA.
Speaking after the vote Monday, Bezalel Smotrich, a Jewish Home lawmaker known for his fervent support of the settlements and inflammatory statements, thanked Americans for electing Trump president, “without whom the law would have probably not passed.”
Smotrich added that it was a “historic day for the settlement [movement] and for the State of Israel.”
Tourism Minister Yariv Lavin of the ruling Likud party said Tuesday on Israeli radio that judges should not have the authority to overturn laws.
“The situation in which everyone waits until a handful of judges who are self-selected behind closed doors decide whether they like the law or not is not democratic and not correct,” he said, calling for “soul searching” by the bench.
Germany says trust in Israel ‘shaken’ by legalization of West Bank settlements on Palestinian land
JERUSALEM — Germany condemned a controversial new Israeli law that retroactively legalizes settler homes built on private Palestinian land.
Berlin said Wednesday that the “regulations law” undermines trust in Israel’s seriousness about reaching a compromise with the Palestinians.
“Many in Germany who stand by Israel and feel great commitment toward it find themselves deeply disappointed by this move,” a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a statement. “Our trust in the Israeli government’s commitment to the two-state solution has been fundamentally shaken.”
The law, which the Knesset passed in a raucous late-night session Monday, allows the state to seize private Palestinian land on which settlements or outposts were built, as long as the settlers were not aware of the status of the land. In cases where the landowners are known, they are entitled to compensation.
Censure of the law has come from governments around the world, including the United Nations, the European Union, France, Britain, Turkey, Jordan and the Palestinians. The United States has refused to comment. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Tuesday that it “will be obviously a topic of discussion” when President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meet later this month.
Most of Israel’s political opposition and even members of the governing coalition oppose the legislation. Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has said he would not defend it before the Supreme Court. It was the first time that an Israeli attorney general has made such a refusal, legal experts told JTA.
“In view of the many reservations which the Israeli attorney general, among others, has affirmed once more, it would be good if the bill could soon undergo a critical legal review,” the German statement said. “We hope and expect that the Israeli government will renew its commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and underpin this with practical steps.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, whose Jewish Home party was the law’s staunchest supporter, is meeting Wednesday with her German counterpart, Heiko Maas.