06/07/2022, 15.39
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Israeli PM Bennett suffers defeat in Knesset over settlers’ law

Israel’s weak government endures another setback. The bill to renew the application of Israeli civil law to settlers was defeated by a margin of 58 to 52. Now it’s down to the wire as the existing law is set to expire on 1 July. Prime Minister Bennett is considering making it a vote of confidence. The law provides special legal status to settlers in the Territories.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israel’s fragile government suffered a new setback. Last night the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, failed to pass a bill to apply Israeli civil law to Israeli settlers living in the West Bank for another five years.

This defeat comes in the wake of the defection of some of the Members of Knesset (MKs) in the ruling coalition, partially reversed, with its razor thin majority tinkering on the edge of collapse.

Had it been approved, such a bill would continue to exempt Israelis from Israeli military justice, which is applied to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

The defeat is not final, but it is a clear warning for the government and the settlers, who enjoy a privileged status under such legislation.

Some 58 MKs voted against the bill while 52 voted in favour. Two MKs from the ruling coalition (Mazen Ghanayim and Rinawie Zoabi) voted against it. Several lawmakers were absent, including four on the government side.

Despite the major loss, the government can hold another vote before the current law expires on 1 July, and it is not excluded that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett could make it a confidence motion.

Still, the outcome is a cause for further concern for a coalition government that is clearly divided on a number of issues.

In office for a year, Israel’s government is made up of eight parties (including, for the first time since 1948, an independent Arab party) and is led by a nationalist leader. Within its ranks, views diverge widely, from settler violence and attacks on Israeli citizens to the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

The law for settlers in the territories is particularly divisive; in particular, Raam, an Islamist party led by Mansour Abbas, is opposed to it. But its four seats are crucial for the coalition’s survival.

At the other end of the spectrum, Justice Minister Gideon Saar, leader of the right-wing Tikva Hadasha party (New Hope), has already warned of serious consequences for the government's stability if the bill is not renewed.

Under this law, Israeli civil law is applied to Israel citizens living in the West Bank. This has been the case since 1967. Palestinians instead come Israeli military authority. This has created a form of apartheid that segregates the two peoples in the same territory.

The emergency law must be renewed every five years and non-approval could have far-reaching consequences for settlers.

If they commit any offence they would be tried by a military court and the sentence served in the West Bank. Moreover, Israelis in the Territories would lose some privileges, including government insurance, membership in the Israel Bar Association, entry into Israel, military service, taxation and adoptions.

What is notable in the current situation is the fact that the right-wing opposition led by former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu voted against renewing the settlers’ law even if it is ideologically in favour of it.

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