US silent amid international outrage over Israel's land-grab law

US silent amid international outrage over Israel's land-grab law
Israel's pro-settler law crossed a "thick red line" towards annexation of the occupied West Bank, said the UN amid further international condemnation - but Trump's administration has refused to comment.
3 min read
07 February, 2017
The bill has legalised thousands of illegal settler homes in the occupied West Bank [Getty]
A new Israeli law legalising thousands of settler homes built on Palestinian-owned land crossed a "thick red line" towards annexation of the occupied West Bank, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The Israeli parliament passed the law late Monday allowing the appropriation of private Palestinian land for Jewish settler outposts, in a move the Palestinians said was a means to "legalise theft".

UN envoy for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov said the bill set a "very dangerous precedent."

"This is the first time the Israeli Knesset (parliament) legislates in the occupied Palestinian lands and particularly on property issues," he told AFP. "That crosses a very thick red line."

Some members of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's right-wing government have called for the annexation of much of the West Bank, a move that would end any hope of an independent Palestinian state.

"(The law) opens the potential for the full annexation of the West Bank and therefore undermines substantially the two-state solution," Mladenov added.

He also raised the possibility the law could open Israel up to potential prosecution at the International Criminal Court, a threat the Jewish state's attorney general has warned of.

The new law will allow Israel to appropriate Palestinian private land on which Israelis built outposts without knowing it was private property or because the state allowed them to do so.

Palestinian owners will be compensated financially or with other land.

The law could still be challenged, with Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying last week it was likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court.

Mladenov called for strong international condemnation of the legislation but declined to criticise the United States after President Donald Trump's administration refused to comment on it, in stark contrast to the settlement criticism voiced by the previous Obama administration.

"I think that is a very preliminary statement," Mladenov said. "Obviously they do need to consult, this is a new administration that has just come into office and they should be given the time and the space to find their policies."

Meanwhile, the British government, whose leader Theresa May on Monday met with Binyamin Netanyahu hours before the vote, has condemned the move.

Middle East minister Tobias Ellwood said the "concerning" bill "damages Israel's standing with its international partners", and reiterated support for a two-state solution.

Turkey "strongly condemned" the law and "unacceptable" Israeli settlement policy, while the Arab League accused Israel of "stealing the land and appropriating the property of Palestinians."

Human Rights Watch said the legislation "reflects Israel's manifest disregard of international law" and deepens the "de facto permanent occupation" of the West Bank.