GENEVA (8 December 2016) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday expressed deep concern over unprecedented proposed legislation in Israel that, if adopted, would allow the retroactive “legalization” of so-called Israeli outposts constructed on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The Bill was approved by the Knesset at the first of three readings on Wednesday.
“In enabling the use of land privately-owned by Palestinians for Israeli settlements without the owners’ consent, this legislation would violate international law according to which Israel, as the occupying power, must respect the private property of Palestinians, regardless of whether or not compensation is provided,” the High Commissioner said. “I strongly urge lawmakers to reconsider their support for this bill, which if enacted, would have far-reaching consequences and would seriously damage the reputation of Israel around the world.”
At least 570,000 Israeli settlers live in some 130 settlements and 100 outposts in the West Bank. “All Israeli settlements -- whether outposts built without formal approval but often with the support of the Israeli authorities and which are currently illegal under Israeli law, or settlements approved by Israel -- are clearly and unequivocally illegal under international law and constitute one of the main obstacles to peace,” he continued. “They are also the principal cause of a wide range of human rights violations inside the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”
The passing of this Bill would have an enormous impact on the landscape of the West Bank, further depriving Palestinians of their land and their livelihoods, and entrenching settlements. According to NGOs working on these issues, the law would clear the way for the potential retroactive legalization of 55 illegal outposts and approximately 4,000 housing units in settlements and outposts built on over 800 hectares of private Palestinian land.
This would further add to the fragmentation of the Palestinian territory, and consequently would undermine any viable future Palestinian State on that territory. This would be the first time that the Knesset enacts a law with territorial implications for the West Bank, beyond East Jerusalem. Statements by the Bill’s supporters, including members of the Government, cast the Bill as a key step towards the de jure annexation of the land in the West Bank.
“This openly-stated ambition should alarm all those interested in seeing respect for international law, and all those who wish for a lasting peace for all the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine,” the High Commissioner said.
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