Rights groups demand Israeli court strikes down settler law

Rights groups demand Israeli court strikes down settler law
Palestinian and Israeli rights groups have petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn a new law that allows the state to annex Palestinian land.
2 min read
09 February, 2017
Settlements are considered illegal under international law [AFP]

Israeli and Palestinian rights groups demanded the Supreme Court strikes down a new law allowing expropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settlers on Wednesday.

Israeli group Adalah and the Palestinian NGO, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC), confirmed their intention to overturn the "dangerous" new law which allows Israel to legally seize Palestinian private land that hosts Israelis outposts and thousands of settler homes in the occupied West Bank.

"We have very strong arguments against the law," Adalah's lawyer Suhad Bishara said outside the court.

"We definitely hope that the Supreme Court will declare that the law is unconstitutional and thus cancel it."

The law has sparked an outpouring of condemnation from around the world since it was passed in the Israeli parliament late on Monday, although the United States has remained tight-lipped.

Adalah and the JLAC are representing 17 Palestinian local councils in the West Bank upon whose lands Israeli settlements covered by the legislation have been constructed.

Approved by 60 members of parliament to 52 against, it was slammed by the Palestinians as a means to "legalise theft" of land.

"This sweeping and dangerous law permits the expropriation of vast tracts of private Palestinian land," said Bishara.

"It violates the property rights both of resident and refugee Palestinians."

Critics suggest the law promotes at least partial annexation of the West Bank, a key demand for parts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing government.

Meanwhile, supporters of the new law want to prevent a repeat of last week's traumatic forcible eviction of the wildcat settlement outpost of Amona, in the northern West Bank.

International law considers all settlements to be illegal, but Israel distinguishes between those it sanctions and those it does not, dubbed outposts.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has himself warned the government that the law may be unconstitutional and risks exposing Israel to international prosecution for war crimes.

He has said he will not be able to defend it before the Supreme Court, and Israeli newspaper Maariv said on Wednesday that he may even testify against it.

The United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League strongly criticised the legislation on Tuesday, although the new administration of US President Donald Trump remained silent.