12/06/2016, 12.53
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Israel, the Knesset set to legalize settlements and outposts in the Occupied Territories

Draft norm that legalizes houses and settlements, in violation of international law, approved. Three more votes needed for entry into force. Main supporters include Bennet. B'Tselem study shows the dynamics of expropriation of land and denounces the frustration of the Palestinians. "Distorted" interpretation the law

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The Israeli Parliament has given the green light to a law that, in the event of final approval, would lead to the legalization of thousands of Jewish houses - illegal under international law - in the West Bank.

The norm would also be applied to the "outposts" [settlements made without official approval in the areas occupied by Israel since 1967, in the aftermath of the Six Day War] with the exception of Amona that remains subject to an eviction decree.

For Palestinians, the settlements (and outposts) represent the main obstacle on the path of peace. The Authority (PNA) has long demanded the cancellation in all territories of the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Their presence, in fact, prevents the emergence of a future state of Palestine.

The law under discussion in the Parliament wants to legalize 4 thousand settlers' houses, built in recent years in the West Bank on Palestinian land belonging to private citizens. Expropriation The Israeli government  has expropriated the land in return for paltry compensation for the population.

The norm, which has received the preliminary go-ahead with 60 votes in favor and 47 against, must be approved in three readings by the Knesset, Israel's parliament, composed of 120 deputies. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, is among the main supporters who hopes the norm could be the beginning of the Israeli "annexation" of most of the occupied territory.

Analysts and Middle East policy experts point out that the decision of Israel is the confirmation of an expansionist policy that the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to support following the US presidential victory of Donald Trump. The executive hawks, heedless of international protests, believe that the new administration will be less critical of the settlements, compared to  Barack Obama.
The land appropriation policy was the subject of an in-depth study prepared by B'Tselem experts, an Israeli NGO that campaigns against the occupation in the Palestinian territories, recently targeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a study published yesterday, entitled "Expel and Exploit: The Israeli Practice of Taking over Palestinian Rural Land", the activists presented the case of three Palestinian villages - Azmut, Deir al-Hatab and Salem, Nablus - whose territory has been subject to progressive fragmentation and dispossession.

The case study shows how these three Palestinian villages have undergone, a land division process since 1980 with the birth of the settlement of Elon Moreh that has arrived at completely separating homes from grazing, cultivation, harvesting areas. The local economy is linked to traditional agriculture, the olive and fruit trees, vegetables and cereals as well as breeding of livestock, based on natural pastures on the hilly expanses of al-Jabal al-Kbir.

In time, Israel has laid the foundations for a territorial separation, which resulted in 1996 in the construction of a road, inaccessible for Palestinians, which has effectively cut the territory in two: on one side the villages, on the other the earth. The 42-year old Palestinian Mahyoub 'Ahed' Abdallah Shtiyeh tells that some colonists, no more than five, "more than how many sheep we possess all of us in the village." We inhabitants of Salem, adds, "We are the owners of the land, but we cannot cross the street. We are forced to keep the sheep in the pens, we are denied access to pasture. "
"The separation created by Israel among the Palestinians and the land used for farming and grazing - say the B'Tselem experts - allows the settlers to build homes unpunished, outposts [...] and take over water resources. At the same time, residents are subject to physical attacks ". These laws, they conclude, "are in violation of international law and are based on a biased interpretation of the norms applied by Israel in the West Bank".

According to the latest statistics provided by Peace Now, Israel gave the green light to 2,623 housing units in the West Bank, including 756 illegally-built homes that have been retrospectively "legalised”.

About 570,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements built by Israel after it seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Under international law these settlements are illegal, a view disputed by the Israeli government, which has boosted its expansionist policy in recent years.

Peace talks between the two sides broke down in 2014, triggering an escalation of violence in the region.


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Israeli and Palestinian NGOs appeal to Supreme Court against pro-settler law
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The Knesset legalizes the seizure of Palestinian land
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