Jewish Home: Settlement Law Had Better Pass Today

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (L) and Education Minister Naftali Bennett didn’t like the way the vote on the Turkey deal was handled. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon (L.) and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The Settlements Arrangement Law will come up for its initial Knesset vote on Wednesday, and if the coalition knows what’s good for it, it will make sure the law comes up for a vote and is approved on its first reading, said MK Shuli Mueallem-Refaeli, head of the Jewish Home faction in the coalition. “If the law does not come up for a vote and pass, Jewish Home will see itself as free of its obligations to the coalition,” she told Army Radio. Without the party’s eight MKs, the government could find itself out of business in the next no-confidence vote.

According to Israeli law, the mere claim of a dispute is sufficient to require demolition of homes built by Jews, even if no evidence is presented. Once the homes are demolished, the process of clarifying to whom the land actually belongs can begin. The law proposed by Jewish Home would replace the land claimed by Palestinians with state land of an equal or greater value that is not in dispute.

The law is designed to prevent the demolition of homes at outposts and settlements that were built in good faith, but later were discovered to be built on private land. That is the situation at Amona, where the High Court on Sunday confirmed its earlier ruling that homes built on the site must be demolished.

While it is likely too late to “save” Amona, the law will apply to many other sites, as well as to homes built by Arabs on Jewish land in areas like Yerushalayim.

The law was approved for legislation unanimously by the Ministerial Law Committee on Sunday, and is set to come up for a Knesset vote on its first reading Wednesday. However, the law is opposed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and by Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon – and as a result, coalition sources said Wednesday, the government is likely to have a hard time getting the bill passed.

Speaking Tuesday, Kachlon said that “my coalition agreement allows our party to vote against legislation that compromises the High Court,” and that is the purpose of the Settlement Arrangements Law, as the court had already ruled on Amona. In response, Jewish Home said that if Kulanu MKs vote against the bill, they would vote against passage of the state budget – leading to an immediate fall of the government, as there would be no majority for it.

Jewish Home sources stressed that they would brook no delay in the presentation of the law, as Netanyahu is seeking to avoid a coalition battle. “Bennett is prepared to take this all the way,” the sources said. “The government has dragged its feet long enough on this. This law is the only way to save thousands of homes in Yehudah and Shomron. It is interesting that what Netanyahu was unable to do for a year – develop a strategy to save those homes – we managed to do in three days.”