TEL AVIV — In a late-night session, the Knesset on Monday passed historic legislation that protects Israeli homes in the West Bank built mostly with government backing on land upon which some Palestinians later claimed ownership.
The Times of Israel reported:
Israel on Monday legalized all West Bank outposts with sweeping legislation that aims to prevent future demolitions of settler homes built on private Palestinian land.
…The law freezes demolition proceedings against the homes.
For any structures found to have been built in good faith — that is, if the homeowners did not know the house was being built on privately owned land — the state would seize the property from its Palestinian owners in exchange for compensation valued at slightly more than the land’s market value, as determined by an Israeli government committee established for that purpose.
Jerusalem Post reported:
Its passage by a vote of 60-52 marks the first time that the Knesset has sought to impose Israeli law in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military and civilian rule. That territory is considered to be outside the Knesset’s purview and such an action could be viewed as an initial application of sovereignty.
…“This is a historic step toward the completion of a process that we plan to lead, the application of full Israeli sovereignty on all the cities and communities in Judea and Samaria,” said MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi).
The law was passed while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was out of the country after wrapping up a trip to London that included a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May.
It comes amid Israeli hopes that President Donald Trump will take a softer approach toward settlements after eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency, which was harshly critical of Israeli communities in the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem.
In Obama’s final weeks in office, a U.S. abstention in December allowed the passage of a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem “occupied Palestinian territories,” and demanding a halt to Israeli construction in those areas.
Some of the holiest sites in Judaism are located in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, including the Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City; the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, which was home to the oldest continuous Jewish community in the world until the Jews of Hebron were massacred and expelled; the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem; and Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus – biblical Shechem.
Last week, the Trump White House released the following statement regarding settlements:
The American desire for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians has remained unchanged for 50 years. While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal. As the President has expressed many times, he hopes to achieve peace throughout the Middle East region. The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.
The statement represented a major change in policy from Obama’s belief that the settlement enterprise is an obstacle to peace.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer followed up by explaining last Thursday that “tthe Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity and looks forward to continuing discussions, including with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he visits with President Trump later this month.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.