Knesset Approves Initial Reading of Amona Legalization Bill


Knesset Approves Initial Reading of Amona Legalization Bill

Written by Andrew Friedman/TPS on December 05, 2016

The Knesset approved a first reading of the controversial “Legalization Bill” on Wednesday with a 60 to 49 vote in the Knesset Plenum, clearing another hurdle for the controversial measure.

The current wording of the bill omits the controversial Article 7, which aimed at legalizing outposts already ordered by the High Court of Justice to be demolished. Jewish Home MKs announced earlier Monday that they would drop their demand to retroactively approve Amona after it became clear that there was no coalition majority to support the measure.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked welcomed the vote, calling the Legalization bill “an extraordinary historical achievement, even without the article pertaining to Amona.”

On the other hand, Amona residents slammed the vote and called on Jewish Home Party chairman Naftali Bennett not to agree to any deal that would lead to the settlement outpost’s demolition.

Last week, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) predicted the vote, saying Israel had “no choice” but to vote the current into law. He said right-wing MKs, including Likud members such as Yariv Levin, understand the need to vote in favor of the bill.

“Opposition to this law is based on a world view that views [Judea and Samaria] as occupied territory,” Smotrich told Army Radio Monday. “This bill stands to change long-standing assumptions – namely, that there is no ‘occupation.’  For 30 years, right-wing governments have been elected, taken office and adopted left-wing agendas. This bill is going to change that.”

Opponents of the law, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, have said the measure could land Israel in front of the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Some have compared the measure to declaring stolen property “kosher” – a legal fiction that bears little influence on reality.

Some legal scholars disagree. They say that politics aside, there is strong legal precedent for the move.

“First of all , there is a lot of confusion about land ownership issues in Judea and Samaria,” said Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, an expert on constitutional and international law and a member of the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, to Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

“The whole argument that the residents of Amona somehow ‘stole’ the land is simply not true. They built homes in good faith without any indication that the ownership of the land was in dispute, and only later was the land determined to be privately owned.

“Secondly, the Palestinians’ claim of land ownership means very little de facto. Because Amona is located inside the municipal boundaries of an existing Jewish community, the land owners would not be able to move onto the land or build houses there, even if Amona is demolished. In that case, in light of the existing facts on the ground, the government has the right to exert its eminent domain to expropriate the land retroactively and to offer financial compensation to the previous land owners,” Kontorovich told TPS.

Asked about opposition to the law, Konorotivch said it is important to distinguish between legal and political issues. Israel is mainly worried about the political consequences of the Legalization Bill, not the legal ones.

“Remember – Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court and does not recognize its jurisdiction. Remember, the ICC has also reconized ‘Palestine,’ but that doesn’t make it a fact. The ICC may consider Israel an “occupying” power, but that is simply, legally not the case. Remember, the Court also considers the Gaza Strip ‘occupied’, despite the fact that there are no Israelis occupying the land,” he said.

That said, the ICC could make headaches for Israel on the political stage, mainly by opening an investigation.

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