After wavering between lukewarm opposition to harsh criticism of the Settlements Arrangement Law, State Attorney Avichai Mandelblit is now on board, the NRG news site reported Thursday. After the passage of the bill in the Knesset on its first reading late Wednesday, Mandelblit told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that he would support the bill, including Section 5, in which the state will back a process whereby homes that were built on land claimed by Palestinians would remain intact, with the claimants receiving other land or cash in compensation.
The Settlements Arrangement Law replaces the process now governing Arab claims of ownership of land on which Israeli homes are built. Currently, such claims are adjudicated by the High Court but the bill would instead institute a special arbitration process that would, among other things, advocate land swaps that would replace the land claimed by Palestinians with state land of 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.
As a result, thousands of homes that were in danger of being demolished as a result of High Court decisions now have a secure future, Education Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett told Army Radio Thursday. “As a result of this law, half a million Jewish residents of Yehudah and Shomron can now breathe a sigh of relief. This land belongs to the Jewish people, and now that is officially on the books as a law in the State of Israel.
“The next step is to establish Israeli sovereignty in Yehudah and Shomron, starting with Maale Adumim,” Bennett said. “We will do this when Jewish Home has 30 mandates in the Knesset.” To cynics who don’t believe this is possible, Bennett said “you didn’t think we could get the Settlements Law passed, but we did. Our political rise will happen as well.”
The law, which passed Wednesday night by a vote of 58 MKs in favor and 51 against, was the result of a deal between Bennett and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ,which arranged for the evacuation of the residents of Amona and the exclusion of Section 7 – which would have grandfathered Amona into the Settlements law – in the final version of the bill. That hilltop community was the impetus for the proposal of the law. In return for the transfer of Amona residents to another parcel of land, Netanyahu agreed to throw the support of the coalition behind the bill.
Not as happy as Bennett about the effects of the law was the U.S. State Department, which on Wednesday slammed it. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner expressed “grave concern” over the law, saying that “it would be profoundly damaging to the prospects for a two-state solution. “We’ve also been troubled by comments that we’ve heard by some political figures in Israel that this would be the first step in annexing parts of the West Bank,” AFP quoted Toner as saying, “We’re deeply concerned about it.”