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Rights groups mount legal challenge to Israel settlement law

Israeli and Palestinian NGOs have filed a suit against a new law allowing thousands of settlements on the West Bank. The legislation is so contentious that even hardliner Netanyahu reportedly has misgivings about it.

Israeli and Palestinian rights organizations petitioned the country's Supreme Court on Wednesday to strike down a controversial new law permitting thousands of new settlements to be built on the West Bank. The law passed late Monday also legalized dozens of wildcat outposts built on Palestinian land without prior official permission from the Israeli government.

Now, Israeli organization Adalah and the Palestinian group Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC) have filed a complaint against the law that has drawn widespread international condemnation.

"This sweeping and dangerous law permits the expropriation of vast tracts of private Palestinian land, giving absolute preference to the political interests of Israel," said Suhad Bishara, one of Adalah's lawyers.

Watch video 02:20

Israel passes controversial settlement law

Bishara said the groups had also asked the court to freeze implementation of the law until a final decision on their case is reached. In the meantime, the Israeli government has 30 days to respond to the suit.

The move comes days after the Supreme Court ruled that the two-decade-old Amona settlement in the West Bank was illegal, in part because it was built on privately owned Palestinian land. Pro-settlement protestors were outraged when, on February 1, the police came to evict the 300 people living there.

Netanyahu has doubts

Israel's attorney general, Avichai Mandelblut, has publicly said he will not support the law in court, as the land in question was also privately owned and thus violates both Israeli and international law. Even pro-settlement Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed doubts about the statute, allegedly voicing concern that it could cause the government a lot of legal headaches.

The United Nations, the UK, the Czech Republic and Germany have all condemned the law. US President Donald Trump has been quiet about the matter, despite publically slamming a UN resolution against settlement building in December.

There are some 600,000 Israelis now living in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, despite repeated outcries from the global community that Israel is engaging in illegal occupation and is forever damaging the prospect of a two-state solution. 

es/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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