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Israeli bill draws condemnation

February 7, 2017

UN chief Antonio Guterres has joined condemnation of a new Israeli law retroactively legalizing Jewish settler outposts in the Palestinian West Bank. Still notably silent is the US under Donald Trump.

Westbank Siedlung Givat Zeev
Image: Reuters/B. Ratner

UN Secretary General Guterres said Tuesday he "deeply regrets" the Israeli parliament's adoption of the bill, warning that it contravened international law and would "have far reaching legal consequences for Israel."

He called on all parties to avoid actions that would derail the two-state solution long-sought internationally. The UN Security Council debates the issue on February 15.

Antonio Guterres
Two-state solution at risk, says GuterresImage: picture-alliance/dpa/J.-Ch. Bott

UN Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov said the bill crossed a "thick red line" and therefore undermined the two-state solution.

Next stop, Supreme Court

The law passed in a 60-52 vote in the 120-seat Knesset late on Monday potentially legalizes some 3,800 homes in the West Bank, but still hinges on Israel's Supreme Court.

The Israeli campaign group Peace Now said a petition by non-governmental groups to the chamber would have a strong chance of halting the law's implementation.

The bill promises compensation for Palestinian owners, either financially or with other land.

Human Rights Watch warned that the Trump administration could not shield Israel from the "scrutiny of the International Criminal Court."

The far-right Jewish Home party's Bezalel Smotrich thanked the American people for electing Trump as president, saying without his backing the "law would have probably not passed."

The State Department said Tuesday Trump's new administration "needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward."

Criticism widespread

Condemnation of the Israeli bill also came Tuesday from Britain, France, Turkey and Israel's neighbor Jordan.

Britain's Middle East minister Tobias Ellwood said: "It is of great concern that the bill paves the way for significant growth in settlements deep in the West Bank."

The bill, if allowed to stand, would clear "the path towards a de-facto annexation of occupied territory," said French President Francois Hollande.

The Arab League accused Israel of "stealing the land and appropriating the property of Palestinians."

Infografik Siedlungen im Westjordanland ENGLISCH

Turkey condemned the law, but on Tuesday its tourism minister, Nabi Avci became his country's first cabinet member to visit Israel since 2010.

That was when Turkey and Israel withdrew their respective diplomatic envoys after Israeli commandoes killed 10 Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound protest ship.

The Turkish-Israeli rift ended last year after secret talks in third countries.

Turkey is a top tourist destination for Israelis. In the 90s, Turkey proffered water deliveries to ease Israeli shortages.

'Aggression' against Palestinians

Visiting Hollande in Paris on Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli bill amounted to "aggression against our people."

"What we want is peace … but what Israel does is to work toward one state based on apartheid," Abbas said.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization said the bill put "the last nail in the coffin of a two-state solution."

ipj/rt (AP, AFP, dpa)

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