Israeli Land Law
is Final Nail in the Two-state Solution Coffin
By Jonathan Cook
February 08, 2017
Israeli parliament passed the legalisation law on Monday
night – a piece of legislation every bit as suspect as
its title suggests. The law widens the powers of Israeli
officials to seize the last fragments of Palestinian
land in the West Bank that were supposed to be
off-limits. Now, almost nowhere will be out of the
leaders warned that the law hammered the last nail in
the coffin of a two-state solution. Government ministers
gleefully agreed. For them, this is the extension of
Israeli law into the West Bank and the first step
towards its formal annexation.
legalisation law – also commonly translated from Hebrew
as the regulation or validation law – was the right’s
forceful response to the eviction last week of a few
dozen families from a settlement "outpost" called Amona.
It was a rare and brief setback for the settlers,
provoked by a court ruling that took three years to
of 40 families was transformed into an expensive piece
of political theatre, costing $40 million (Dh147m). It
was choreographed as a national trauma to ensure such an
event is never repeated.
worn by police at demolitions of Palestinian homes –
guns, batons, black body armour and visors – were stored
away. Instead officers, in friendly blue sweatshirts and
baseball caps, handled the Jewish lawbreakers with kid
gloves, even as they faced a hail of stones, bleach and
bottles. By the end, dozens of officers needed hospital
As the clashes
unfolded, Naftali Bennett, the education minister and
leader of the settler party Jewish Home, called Amona’s
families "heroes". Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu
empathised: "We all understand the extent of their
have been promised an enlarged replacement settlement,
and will be richly compensated. In a more general
reparation, plans have been unveiled for thousands of
extra settler homes in the West Bank.
But the main
prize for Mr Bennett and the far right was the
legalisation law itself. It reverses a restriction
imposed in the 1970s – and later violated by dozens of
settlements like Amona – designed to prevent a
free-for-all by the settlers.
law is clear that an occupying power can take land only
for military needs. Israel committed a war crime in
transferring more than 600,000 Jewish civilians into the
governments ignored their legal obligations by
pretending the territories were disputed, not occupied.
But to end the Israeli courts’ discomfort, officials
agreed to forbid settlers from building on land
privately owned by Palestinians.
It was not much
of a constraint. Under Ottoman, British and Jordanian
rule, plenty of Palestinian land had never been formally
registered. Ownership derived chiefly from usage. Much
of the rest was common land.
these vast tracts that lacked title deeds, declaring
them "state land" – to be treated effectively as part of
Israel and reserved exclusively for Jewish settlement.
But even this giant land grab was not enough.
territorial hunger led to dozens of "outposts" being
built across the West Bank, often on private Palestinian
land. Despite the fact they violated Israeli law, the
outposts immediately received state services, from
electricity and water to buses and schools.
the courts drew a line in Amona and demanded that the
land be returned to its Palestinian owners. The
legalisation law overrules the judges, allowing private
lands stolen from Palestinians to be laundered as
Israeli state property.
attorney general has refused to defend the law. Will the
supreme court accept it? Possibly. The aim of the
"traumatic" scenes at Amona was to depict the court as
the villain of this drama for ordering the evictions.
there could be silver linings to the legalisation law.
there has never been a serious limit on theft of
Palestinian land. But now Israeli government support for
the plunder will be explicit in law. It will be
impossible to blame the outposts on "rogue" settlers, or
claim that Israel is trying to safeguard Palestinian
Dan Meridor, a
former government minister from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud
party, called the law "evil and dangerous". Israel, he
pointed out, can have jurisdiction over private
Palestinian land only if Palestinians vote for Israel’s
parliament – in short, this is annexation by other
means. It shuts the door on any kind of Palestinian
Over time, he
added, it will bring unintended consequences. Rather
than make the outposts legal, it will highlight the
criminal nature of all settlements, including those in
East Jerusalem and the so-called "settlement blocs" –
areas previous US administrations had hinted they might
accept for annexation to Israel in a future peace deal.
The other major
danger was noted by opposition leader Isaac Herzog. "The
train departing from here has only one stop – at The
Hague," he said, in reference to the home of the
International Criminal Court.
prosecutors take their duties seriously, the
legalisation law significantly raises the pressure on
them to put Israeli officials – even Mr Netanyahu – on
trial for complicity in the war crime of establishing
and nurturing the settlements.
Jonathan Cook is
an independent journalist in Nazareth
expressed in this article are solely those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
Information Clearing House.