FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Israel’s New Land Law: Clearing the Path to Annexation

by

Photo by Swithun Crowe | CC BY 2.0

Photo by Swithun Crowe | CC BY 2.0


Nazareth.

The 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 final fragments of Palestinian land in the West Bank that were supposed to be off-limits.

Palestinian 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.

The 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 enforce.

The evacuation of 40 families was transformed into an expensive piece of political theatre, costing $40 million. It was choreographed as a national trauma to ensure such an event is never repeated.

The uniforms 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 treatment.

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 pain.”

The settlers 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 Bennett and the far right was the legalisation law itself. It reverses a restriction imposed in the 1970s – and later violated by dozens of “outposts” like Amona – designed to prevent a free-for-all by the settlers.

International 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 occupied territories.

Successive 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.

Israel seized these vast tracts that lacked title deeds, or that belonged to those expelled from the West Bank by the 1967 war, and declared 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.

The settlers’ territorial hunger led to dozens of settlement 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.

Very belatedly, 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.

Israel’s 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.

Nonetheless, there could be silver linings to the legalisation law.

In practice, 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 property rights.

Dan Meridor, a former government minister from 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 state.

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.

If ICC prosecutors take their duties seriously, the legalisation law significantly raises the pressure on them to put Israeli officials – even Netanyahu – on trial for complicity in the war crime of establishing and nurturing the settlements.

A version of the this article first appeared in the National Abu Dhabi

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail