In a 60-52 vote late in the evening, Israel’s Knesset has agreed on a bill that allows the Israeli government to unilaterally seize land privately owned by Palestinians, make it state property, and then transfer it to settlers for the construction of settlements in the occupied territories.
The immediate impact of the law is to retroactively legalize some 4,000 Israeli settler units illegally built on privately-owned Palestinian land. The long term implications could be much, much broader, which has the far-right members of the Israeli coalition declaring the vote “historic.”
That’s because it doesn’t just apply to these 4,000 units, but all land owned by Palestinians anywhere in Palestine, setting the stage for the wholesale dispossession of what land is still legally owned by Palestinians under the occupation, and its transfer by the Israeli government to settlements. This is seen as another big step toward ultimately annexing the territory outright into Israel.
Of course, the settlements are no less illegal under international law than they ever were, and that illegality extends to all the settlements in occupied territory, not just those outposts built without Israeli Defense Ministry imprimatur. Still, the change in Israeli law appears to encourage more settlement building on land the settlers don’t own, secure in the knowledge that sooner or later, the government will seize the land from its owners and transfer it to the politically influential settler movement.