Israel law to be applied to West Bank settlers

Israel's Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a bill that would allow all laws passed by the Israeli parliament (Knesset) to be applied in the occupied West Bank.

Israel law to be applied to West Bank settlers

World Bulletin/News Desk

A ministerial committee approved a proposed bill on Sunday that would ensure the wholesale application of Israeli law to Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, a move sponsored by legislators who want Israel to annex part of the territory.

But Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel's chief negotiator in peace talks with the Palestinians that collapsed in April, said she would appeal the decision, effectively putting parliamentary ratification on indefinite hold.

Most countries consider the settlements Israel has built in the West Bank, which Palestinians seek for a state along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, as illegal.

Israel, which captured the West Bank in a 1967 war, considers the territory to be under its military control, and largely adjudicates legal matters relating to the area's 2.4 million Palestinians in military courts.

The area's 350,000 settlers are effectively under the jurisdiction of civilian courts in Israel because parliament has already applied a clutch of laws -- primarily criminal and tax laws and military conscription -- to them.

But to ensure that other Israeli laws are binding on settlers in the army-run West Bank, the military commander there has to transpose them -- at his discretion -- into military regulations.

The new draft bill would have made it mandatory for the commander to issue, within 45 days of a law's passage in parliament, an identically-phrased military order, effectively ensuring that all ratified legislation also applies to settlers.

Sponsors of the bill said such arrangements would not change the status of the West Bank or contravene international law.

"Today's bill only aims to give legitimacy to Israeli settlements in the West Bank," Emad Abu Awwad, a Palestinian researcher in Israeli affairs, told Anadolu Agency.

He said Israel aimed to turn its West Bank settlements into cities considered within the borders of the self-proclaimed Jewish state, not occupied territories.

The roots of the current conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous "Balfour Declaration," called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Jewish immigration rose considerably under the British administration of Palestine, which was consolidated by a League of Nations "mandate" in 1922.

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state – Israel – was declared inside historical Palestine.

As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns were razed to the ground by Jewish forces.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.

On May 15 of each year, Palestinians still commemorate the mass expulsion in 1948, which they refer to as the "nakba" or "catastrophe."

For many Palestinians, the right to return to their homes in historical Palestine – a right enshrined in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 – remains a key demand.

Since its establishment, Israel has continued to misappropriate Palestinian land in the West Bank – on which it continues to build numerous Jewish-only settlements – in breach of international law.

Palestinians demand the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with East Jerusalem – currently occupied by Israel – as its capital.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Kasım 2014, 22:21

Muhammed Öylek