Jerusalam: A Palestinian Cabinet minister on Tuesday called on the international community to punish Israel for a contentious new law, just hours after the Israeli parliament adopted the bill to retroactively legalize thousands of West Bank settlement homes built unlawfully on private Palestinian land.
The explosive law, approved by lawmakers late on Monday, is the latest in a series of pro-settler steps taken by Israel’s hard-line government since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. It is expected to trigger international outrage and a flurry of lawsuits against the measure.
“Nobody can legalize 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. “I think it is time now for the international community to act concretely to stop the Israelis from these crimes.”
Trump is seen as more sympathetic to Israel’s settlement policies than his fiercely critical predecessor Barack Obama, and the Israeli government has approved plans to build thousands of new homes on occupied territory since Trump took office.
Israeli Cabinet minister Ofir Akunis said during a stormy debate ahead of the vote that the lawmakers were voting “on the connection between the Jewish people and its land.”
“This whole land is ours. All of it,” he said.
Critics say the legislation enshrines into law the theft of Palestinian land, and it is expected to be challenged in Israel’s Supreme Court.
According to the law, Palestinian landowners would be compensated either with money or alternative land, even if they did not agree to give up their property.
The vote passed 60-52 in Israel’s 120-member Knesset. The raucous debate saw opposition lawmakers shouting from their seats at governing coalition lawmakers speaking in favor of the vote. Some spectators in visitors’ seats raised a black cloth in apparent protest.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had voiced misgivings about the law in the lead-up to the vote, reportedly expressing concern that it could trigger international censure and saying he wanted to coordinate with the Trump administration before moving ahead on a vote.
He told reporters on a trip to London that he had updated Washington and was ready to move ahead with the law. Netanyahu was on his way back from the trip and was not present for the vote.
The White House’s immediate response was to refer to its statement last week that said the construction of new settlements “may not be helpful” in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace. The State Department later said “the Trump administration will withhold comment on the legislation until the relevant court ruling.”
The State Department later said “the Trump administration will withhold comment on the legislation until the relevant court ruling.”