Should proposed legislation pass, it could transform dozens of West Bank outposts into new legal settlements, a move that is a red line for the US and the international community.
But it comes at a precarious moment, as Israel enters the twilight of the Obama administration, which it has feared for over a year, specifically with regard to this very issue.
Such wide scale settler authorizations make it much more likely that the US would not veto or possibly even support a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlement activity put forward in the next two months before President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
It also increases the risk of stiff anti-settlement decisions when European nations and other countries gather in France at the end of December for an international peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Increasingly, amid the international community’s condemnation of settlement building and planning, there has been a specific focus on the issue of retroactive legalization of homes, whether as part of existing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria or as the nucleus of new ones.
Settlements are not just a diplomatic stick used to hit Israel. Rightly or wrongly, the Obama Administration and European leaders believe that settlement building is destroying the option of a two-state solution.
In the absence of a negotiating process, the last round of talks broke down in April 2014, they see steps taken to halt such a activity as a necessary move.
Israel has persistently insisted that Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, dooms the concept of a two-state solution.
It was a statement that Netanyahu repeated on Sunday, as he blamed the Palestinians for the absence of a diplomatic process to create a two-state solution.
Israel during Netanyahu’s tenure has continued to build in the settlements out of the belief that such activity has no bearing on the peace process, particularly given that negotiations occurred under Oslo and Annapolis even as Jewish building continued in the West Bank.
Still, Netanyahu has proceeded cautiously with new construction, with numbers that until recently were lower than his predecessors.
Separately, since taking office, Netanyahu has quietly gone about legalizing settlers homes built on state land, but which lacked zoning plans or needed approvals.
He has been stymied, however, by the question of what to do with the several thousand unauthorized homes in settlements and outposts on private Palestinian property.
Since 2011, Netanyahu has accepted the principle that homes on private Palestinian property must be removed and has held that line, in spite of pressure from the right flank of any coalition he has headed.
But outside of new construction, he has not taken steps to demolish these homes, granting them a sort of grandfather status.
Only petitions to the High Court of Justice by left-wing groups have led to demolitions.
Settlers and right wing politicians have argued that they shouldn’t live in some kind of a game of Russian roulette waiting to see which home will be razed next.
These are homes, they have said, built with tacit government approval, either with funding or with the construction of roads and utilities.
They have urged that government to actualize the reality that already exists, by legalizing them. It’s a move that Netanyahu has been loathe to make. At each turn, he has sought alternatives.
His government accepted, but never ratified, the 2012 Levy report which spoke of tackling the issue of illegal settler homes. It pushed back and defeated a similar legislative drive that same year for what was called “the outpost bill.”
Just like with Amona, it was designed to retroactively legalize outposts, so that it could be applied to the five apartment buildings in the Ulpana outpost that were similarly under a High Court of Justice mandate to be demolished.
The legislation was overwhelmingly defeated in the Knesset. The homes were destroyed and the government struck a deal with the settlers so that they voluntarily left.
This newest legislation drive, called the “Regulations Act,” must undergo three Knesset readings. It is unlikely to pass into law, because without Netanyahu’s specific support, it lacks the support of all the coalition parliamentarians and most of the opposition is united against it.
Even if it does pass, it is probable that the High Court of Justice would strike it down for being unconstitutional.
The essence of the bill, which is the legalization of settler homes on private Palestinian land, even with compensation, flies against almost four decades of Supreme Court rulings.
The best Likud and Bayit Yehudi parliamentarians can do here is solicit support from their voters for making a last ditch effort to save Amona, and for tackling an issue that is close to their voters’ hearts.
They might have lit a candle of hope in the heart of the settlers for the resolution of the long outstanding problem regarding the settler homes.
Certainly, those flames have grown stronger with the euphoric expectations of what a Trump presidency might bring to Judea and Samaria.
But Trump remains a wildcard, and the actions of the ministers are likely to exact a price in the international arena.
Amid an uptick in violence by Palestinian attackers, Netanyahu will address the General Assembly shortly after Abbas, Iran’s Rouhani
Following numerous speeches by world leaders encouraging Israel to adopt the two-state solution, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the United Nations General Assembly Thursday for his eighth speech to the annual plenary session.
The speech will come less than an hour after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is scheduled to address the confab, amid a sharp uptick in attacks by Palestinians against IDF soldiers in recent days.
Also scheduled to speak before Netanyahu is Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, who has been a target of the Israeli leader’s opprobrium in many past speeches to the world body.
Netanyahu is 15th on the roster of world leaders scheduled to speak in the Thursday morning session at the UN, and is expected to go up to the podium at about 12:40 p.m. New York time (7:40 p.m. in Israel). Rouhani is 12th on the list and Abbas 13th.
Before taking off for the UN headquarters on Tuesday, Netanyahu said he intended to urge world powers to unite in the campaign against terror.
“I expect from the international community a uniform standard in the war on terrorism,” he said. “Today the entire international community says that there is a need to wage a determined and uncompromising fight against terrorism. And indeed, they must also support the determined and uncompromising fight against terrorism, and this moral clarity is necessary to both fight against — and defeat — terrorism.”
The prime minister added that he will “present Israel’s case, Israel’s truth, Israel’s justice and also Israel’s heroism — the heroism of our soldiers, our police officers and our citizens, who are waging an uncompromising struggle against brutal terrorism,” during his address to world leaders.
The prime minister’s speeches to the UN assembly in the last several years dealt largely with the issue of Iran’s nuclear program and trying to stymie the agreement between world powers and Iran that has, Jerusalem claimed, does little to push Tehran further from a nuclear weapon.
Last year he rebuked world powers for failing to challenge Iran over its threats to destroy Israel, accusing the international community of “deafening silence,” as he himself stood in silence for 44 seconds, staring reproachfully at the crowd.
Thursday’s speech comes a day after Netanyahu met with US President Barak Obama on the sidelines of the assembly, in what was likely the last encounter between the two in their current positions.
In their public remarks, the two displayed a jovial camaraderie with Obama only briefly mentioning peace efforts with the Palestinians and concerns over settlement building.
But behind closed doors, senior Obama administration officials claimed Obama was more pointed, raising “profound US concerns” that settlement-building was eroding prospects for peace. Netanyahu challenged that notion, said one official, adding that the two leaders had not “papered over” their differences.
In his own address to the General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama said that while the Palestinians should reject terror and incitement, Israel must recognize that it cannot “permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land.”
“Surely Israelis and Palestinians will be better off if Palestinians reject incitement and recognize the legitimacy of Israel. But Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land. We all have to do better,” he added.
A number of other world leaders also mentioned the Israel-Palestinian conflict, warning against the rejection of the two-state solution.
In the opening speech of the session, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the only solution to the conflict would be a two-state solution, and that the one-state option would “spell doom” for both sides.
On stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Ban said that prospects for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel “are being lowered by the day.”
“It pains me that this past decade has been lost to peace. Ten years lost to illegal settlement expansion. Ten years lost to intra-Palestinian divide, growing polarization and hopelessness,” he said, adding that West Bank settlements were “obstacles to progress.”
“This is madness. Replacing a two-state solution with a one-state construct would spell doom: denying Palestinians their freedom and rightful future, and pushing Israel further from its vision of a Jewish democracy towards greater global isolation,” said Ban.
Jordan’s King Abdullah warned Israel would find itself in “a sea of hatred” if it did not accept a Palestinian state.
“No injustice has spread more bitter fruit than the denial of a Palestinian state. I say: Peace is a conscious decision,” the king said. “Israel has to embrace peace or eventually be engulfed in a sea of hatred in a region of turmoil.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he planned to use recently strengthened ties with Israel to help encourage the peace process with the Palestinians, calling the implementation of a two-state solution an “obligation of the international community.”
“There is a need to allow for the Palestinian people to establish an independent Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on the two-state solution,” he told the UN General Assembly in New York. “It is an obligation of the international community toward the Palestinian children, if nothing else.”
Egypt’s president, veering off his written speech, urged Israel and the Palestinians to look to the “wonderful” example set by his country and the Jewish state and agree on a solution that lets them exist in peace as two neighboring states.
President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi described the Israel-Egypt model as “a real opportunity to write a bright page in the history of our region to move towards peace.”
Sissi said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at “the core of regional instability” and called for a settlement based on a two-state solution leading to a Palestinian state.
Times Of Israel
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