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Voting 'Yes' for Theft : Haaretz Editorial

If the vote takes place, the majority of our lawmakers will raise their hands to approve a bill that will steal land from Palestinians.

Haaretz Editorial           6 February 2017
Netanyahu and Bennett
Netanyahu and Bennett: Photo  Haim Horenstein
Assuming that the Knesset vote takes place today as scheduled, the state legislature is going to stain itself dreadfully when it approves what’s been dubbed the “regularization law,” meant to retroactively legalize illegally built homes in the West Bank. The name of the bill is misleading, and not by coincidence. The bill doesn’t aim to “regularize” but to steal.
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 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.”
To grant this theft a veil of equitableness, Palestinians who can prove ownership will receive increased financial compensation.
The proud leader of this thievery is the Habayit Hayehudi party. As far as the members of this nationalist religious party are concerned, there is no area in the Land of Israel that belongs to non-Jews. That’s also why there’s no point in talking in terms of theft, stealing or expropriation; all we have here is a “misunderstanding” that needs to be “regularized.”
Heading this band of thieves is Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett. The education minister tried to bow and scrape last week before the Amona evacuees, who complained about his inability to prevent their eviction, by promising that the expropriation law would be voted on today, thus “putting an end to the method of legal displacement.”
Bennett is not alone in his struggle against the “method of legal displacement.” He is backed by party colleague Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who won’t let trivialities stop the robbery convoy from barreling forward.
The fact that Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit refuses to defend such theft if it gets challenged in court doesn’t deter her. Shaked has found a solution: a private attorney will represent the government.
So that’s how it is. To authorize land theft in the occupied territories the justice minister is prepared to smash the country’s legal norms with her own hands.
And as if to threaten the High Court of Justice, which will probably be asked to rule on this unconstitutional law, the woman meant to defend it delivered the following warning: “If the regularization law is invalidated, there is a series of administrative decisions that the attorney general has already made and stands behind that regularizes most of the settlements.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that this bill is immoral, unconstitutional and will certainly do Israel great damage internationally. Netanyahu also knows that the law will be struck down by the High Court of Justice, which will then be smeared mercilessly by the settler right and its Knesset representatives.
Netanyahu is trapped; he knows that the good of the country requires that the bill be buried for good, but on the other hand, he hears MK Betzalel Smotrich declare that “if the regularization bill doesn’t come up [for a vote] on Monday, there will be no government.”
And if there’s one thing that Netanyahu’s long years at the helm have proven, it’s that when asked to choose between the good of the country and his political survival, the country will always come second.
Haaretz Editorial
Explained: Israel's New Palestinian Land-grab Law and Why It Matters

Israel's parliament voted on a bill that expropriates private Palestinian land in the West Bank. What does the new law change, who is affected and why is it such a big deal?
by Allison Kaplan Sommer         07  February, 2017     Haaretz
 A picture taken from Hebron shows a Palestinian boy riding a horse, with the Israeli settlement of Givat Harsina appearing in the background, West Bank, February 5, 2017.
A picture taken from Hebron shows a Palestinian boy riding a horse, with the Israeli settlement of Givat Harsina appearing in the background, West Bank, February 5, 2017. HAZEM BADER/AFP
What exactly does the new law change?
The law allows Israel to expropriate private Palestinian land in the West Bank where Israeli settlements or outposts have been built. It allows Jewish settlers to remain in their homes, even though it does not grant them ownership of the land they live on. It denies the Palestinian owners the right to claim the land or take possession of it “until there is a diplomatic resolution of the status of the territories.”
Wait – back up – what is the name of the law? 
Good question. Part of the confusion surrounding the bill is its name. In Hebrew, it has been given a misleading moniker with confusing translation options – most commonly, it is translated as the “Regularization Law.”
Israel just passed the land-grabbing law. What is it all about?
Technically, it is meant to “regulate settlement in Judea and Samaria and allow its continued establishment and development.” A more straightforward name would, in fact, be “Expropriation Bill,” since it legalizes government expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land retroactively. The law’s opponents would probably prefer to put things even more bluntly and call it the “Theft Law” – a law that legalizes settlers living on land that doesn’t belong to them. 
Why is it such a big deal? Isn’t the West Bank occupied anyway?
The law crosses a line Israel has never violated before, even according to right-wingers like former Likud minister Dan Meridor, who called the law “evil and dangerous.” He points out that Israel's Parliament never regulated Palestinian property ownership in the West Bank because “the Arabs of Judea and Samaria did not vote for the Knesset, and it has no authority to legislate for them. These are basic principles of democracy and Israeli law.”
If Israel is to be fully sovereign in the West Bank, he contends, it would have to allow the Palestinians there citizenship and grant the right to vote. Until then, he says, Israel’s authority to regulate land in the West Bank is limited only to doing so for security purposes – under both Israeli and international law. 
Does Israel’s attorney general agree? 
Yes. Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has declared that if the law is challenged in court, he won’t defend it against arguments that it violates the Fourth Geneva Convention.
This hasn’t deterred Israel’s far-right Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, a senior member of the party Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home), the driving force behind the law. She says that if it becomes necessary, a private attorney will represent the government in a court battle that most legal experts expect to end in an invalidation of the law. 
How many settlements will the law affect?
According to Peace Now, the law will allow for the retroactive legalization of land in more than 50 outposts and settlements so far.
In 16 of them, demolition orders have already issued against homes built on land claimed by Palestinian owners. Under the new law, any action to implement these orders will be frozen for a year pending proceedings to determine whether the state may seize the land. 
This includes properties in the settlements of Ofra, Eli, Netiv Ha’avot, Kokhav Hashahar, Mitzpe Kramim, Alon Moreh, Ma’aleh Mikhmash, Shavei Shomron, Kedumim, Psagot, Beit El, Yitzhar, Har Bracha, Modi’in Illit, Nokdim and Kokhav Yaakov.
The law came too late to save the illegal outpost of Amona, which was evacuated last week.
What do you mean by “so far”? Would the law, if passed and upheld, allow settlement on private Palestinian land in the future?
Potentially, yes. The measure would empower the justice minister to add more settlements and outposts to the list of areas where property may be seized from Palestinians, with the approval of the Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.
Are the Palestinian landowners who have settlers living on their land compensated? And if so, how? 
Under the new law, Palestinian landowners get a choice: if possible, they are given an alternate plot of land. If not, they will be paid an annual usage payment of 125 percent of the land’s value as determined by an assessment committee for renewable periods of 20 years. Unless, in an optimistic scenario, a peace deal happens that involves removing Israeli settlements from their land. 
Why does all of this sound really familiar? Hasn’t the government been fighting over this for a long time? 
The bill passed its initial legislative hurdles in November and December, but was subsequently deferred and postponed for various reasons. The primary reason has been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s concerns over the late-term moves of the Obama administration (and indeed, Obama aides have held the law at least partially responsible for its UN Security Council abstention) and its fear of getting off on the wrong foot with the Trump administration.
The law has been pushed hard by Education Minister Naftali Bennett. When Bennett first introduced it, Netanyahu called his haste "childish and irresponsible" and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Bennett that he was "endangering the future of the settlement enterprise on an electoral whim."
So why was it revived and why the last-minute late-night vote on Monday?
Netanyahu was told by the Trump administration not to take any significant moves before his scheduled meeting with the president on February 15. He’d used this to make the case for delaying the Monday vote at a meeting with coalition party leaders a day earlier. But Bennett and Shaked, under tremendous pressure from their base to forge ahead with it after Amona was dismantled, refused any more delays.
Unable to stop the law any longer, all Netanyahu could do was “brief” Trump – let him know it was coming, on the same day he had to hear from British Prime Minister Theresa May that the law would be “unhelpful” and would make things more difficult for Israel's friends. And – presumably to save face with his right-wing supporters whom Bennett clearly hopes to woo away from him – Netanyahu backtracked, denying he had tried to delay the vote. 
Allison Kaplan Sommer
Haaretz Correspondent
Opinion:  From Outposts to The Hague: The Illegality of Israel’s Land-grab Law
Right-wing politicians pushed a Knesset law to legalize illegal West Bank outposts. They might have triggered the International Criminal Court to question the legality of every single Israeli settlement.
BY Aeyal Gross    10 February  2017     Haaretz
A picture taken from the West Bank city of Hebron on February 7, 2017 shows a view of the Kiryat Arba Jewish settlement on the outskirts of the Palestinian city.
A picture taken from the West Bank city of Hebron on February 7, 2017 shows a view of the Kiryat Arba Jewish settlement on the outskirts of the Palestinian city. HAZEM BADER/AFP
Barely 36 hours passed between the Knesset completing the passing of the so-called “Regularization Law”, and the submission of the first petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against it (by the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, on behalf of Palestinian villages and NGOs).
The controversial law will allow the forced and retroactive expropriation of Palestinian private lands in the West Bank on which Jewish settlements were established. The background to the law: several successful petitions to the Supreme Court by Palestinian landowners on whose West Bank property illegal so-called “outposts” were established by Jewish settlers, most famously Amona, evacuated just a few days before the new law came into force.
Legally speaking, the case against the Regularization Law is strong and easy. It is in fact so strong that Israel’s Attorney General himself said he would not be able to defend the law in court.
The case against the law rests both upon international law and Israeli constitutional law. The West Bank is a territory under belligerent occupation – its status as such was repeatedly confirmed by the Israeli Supreme Court. Israeli law does not apply to this territory. For the Israeli parliament to attempt to legislate a law which denies the property rights of Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel and who did not vote in Knesset elections is a violation of the basic principles of democracy, and such legislation exceeds the Knesset’s sovereign powers.
It also violates the principles laid out in the international law of occupation, according to which the occupying power must act for the benefit of the local occupied population, and it transgresses specific provisions restricting the taking of private property only for military needs. These rules appear in the Hague Regulations, on whose basis the Israeli Supreme Court has ruled many times in the past.
Since the law’s declared purpose is to regulate and allow for the development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it also contravenes the prohibition in the Geneva Convention on occupying states transferring civilian population into occupied territories – a prohibition which most of the international community, as well as the International Court of Justice, considers, contrary to Israel’s position, as prohibiting the settlements.
However, while in the past the Israeli Supreme Court reviewed IDF actions in the West Bank based on the international law, the novelty of this case will be the head-on clash between parliamentary legislation and international law. As the questions regarding this clash are complicated, the court may find it easier to rule mainly based on Israeli constitutional law, holding that the law violates the right to property, which is protected in Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, as well as the right to human dignity itself, which includes the right to equality, which is flagrantly violated in this case.
But while legally the case against the law is easy, the politics of law are more complicated. The presiding justices will surely know that ruling against the law would accelerate the already growing appetite of right-wing MKs to clip the Supreme Court’s wings in various forms, including a repeated proposal to allow the Knesset to “override” the court’s judgments in certain circumstances.
On the other hand, one can argue that some players in the current Israeli government coalition would be happy for the court to save the government from itself by holding the law as unconstitutional. Then, they can have twice the fun: show their right-wing base they supported the law and then show that same base their enthusiasm in attacking the “liberal”, “lefty” judges. Trump himself could take lessons from the Israeli right in this area.
But the Israeli court may not be the only one looking at the law. Looming in the shadows is the ongoing preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The examination is looking into the issue of the settlements generally; one of the topics mentioned in a November 2016 report on the progress of the examination was "the regularization of constructions built without the required authorization from Israeli authorities (so-called outposts); the confiscation and appropriation of land."
The new law may end up driving the Hague prosecutor to shift from a “preliminary examination” to a full investigation, which in turn may lead to the indictment of Israelis responsible for settlement policy at the International Criminal Court. And unlike the Regularization Law appeal before the Israeli Supreme Court, such an investigation would likely open up the broader questions of Israeli West Bank settlements, highlighting other active forms of land-grab by Israel, and to the illegality of the settlements as a whole.
Aeyal Gross
Haaretz Contributor
Bill: Israeli Firms Would Be Required to Notify Customers if They Don't Provide Services to Settlements
Businesses that don't ship goods or provide after-sales service to settlements could face 10,000-shekel fine; regulations would make it easier to form blacklist of such companies.
Jonathan Lis Feb 05, 2017 7:04 PM
New homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
New homes in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.  Ilan Assayag
The government is looking to pass new regulations that will force Israeli businesses to place prominent signs in their premises if they don’t provide shipping or other services to settlers in the occupied territories.
Under the new regulations, a business owner who doesn’t display the sign could be liable to a fine of up to 10,000 shekels ($2,660).
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon outlined the move Sunday, as part of a law designed to prevent discrimination against those living in outlying areas and Arab villages, but it also specifically mentions assisting settlement residents.
Lawmaker Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) hinted that the move would allow settlers to draw up a “blacklist” that will permit a boycott of businesses that treat settlements differently to Israel proper. The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee will discuss approving the bill on Monday, prior to its second and third readings in the Knesset.
“It cannot be that residents of Judea and Samaria, for example, will purchase a product but never receive services or shipping for it because they live beyond the Green Line, or they will be required to pay a ‘special charge,’” said Moalem-Refaeli, referring to the West Bank and Israel’s pre-1967 borders.
“Businesses that choose to discriminate against consumers who live in Judea and Samaria, in outlying areas or in Arab communities will be obligated to inform their custo mers in advance. If they fear being put on customers’ blacklists, they should them treat all equally.”
According to the regulations, a business will need to place a sign “close to every cash register, in a prominent place, which sets out its shipping or service policy.”
The sign must be at least A4 size (210 x 297 millimeters, or 11.7 x 8.3 inches). The regulations also include specific instructions relating to the lettering: The words “Shipping Service Policy” or “Customer Service Policy” must appear at the top of the sign, underlined and no less than 65 pixels in size. The size of text within the actual announcement must be no less than 24 pixels.
According to the anti-discrimination bill, which has already passed its first reading in the Knesset, “Whoever offers a product or service to the public or operates a public place, will not discriminate in providing the product or public service at the place of the business, in allowing entrance to a public place or providing service in a public place due to the place of residence.”
In Clause 2 (A), it is written specifically that the law will apply to providing for “the area defined by emergency regulations (Judea and Samaria).”
The bill’s explanatory notes add: “The business will be prohibited from doing anything, in practice or by omission, in writing or verbally or any other way, including after the connection [was made] that is liable to mislead the consumer regarding the place to which the property or service will be provided, including stopping the asset or service in the area of Judea and Samaria.”
Jonathan Lis
Haaretz Correspondent