Britain joins international condemnation of Israel’s settlement law
Britain and a host of other nations have condemned a new Israeli law that gives retroactive approval to illegally built Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli parliament passed the controversial measure late on Monday night and by Tuesday afternoon the UN, the UK, France, Jordan, Turkey and other countries spoke out against the legislation.
Tobias Ellwood, the minister for the Middle East, said: “It is of great concern that the bill paves the way for significant growth in settlements in the West Bank, threatening the viability of the two-state solution.
The legislation gives retroactive approval to around 4,000 settler homes which were built on private Palestinian land, in contravention of Israel’s own laws.
Avichai Mandelblit, the Israeli attorney general, has said the law is unconstitutional and it is likely to eventually be struck down by the Israeli Supreme Court.
However, its successful passage through the Israeli parliament is a sign of the power of the Jewish Home, a pro-settler party within Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government.
While both Mr Netanyahu and his defence minister were unhappy about the law, they were forced to let it go to a vote because of the Jewish Home.
The Obama administration had voiced its concerns over the bill but Donald Trump’s White House did not comment after it was passed, with officials saying only that Mr Trump would discuss the issue with Mr Netanyahu in Washington next week.
The Trump administration said last week that it did not consider Israeli settlements to be an obstacle to peace but that it felt settlement expansion “may not be helpful”.
The UN said the law “crosses a very thick red line” and warned that it could pave the way for a broader annexation of the West Bank by the Israeli government.
“This is the first time the Israeli Knesset legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues,” Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy for Middle East peace.
The Palestinian Authority called for sanctions against Israel in response to the new law. “Nobody can legalise the theft of the Palestinian lands. Building settlements is a crime, building settlements is against all international laws,” said Palestinian Tourism and Antiquities Minister Rula Maayaa.
While the international community layered on its criticism, the Israeli Right celebrated its victory.
Naftali Bennett, the head of the Jewish Home party, tweeted out a single Hebrew word: mahapach, which translates as “turnaround” in English, but is understood in Israel to mean a moment of political upheaval.
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