Rivlin warns outpost regulation bill degrades rule of law in Israel
AHMAD GHARABLI (AFP)
President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, criticized new legislation passed by Israel's parliament last week in a speech on Monday, asserting that the bill degrades the rule of law within the country's borders.
"Sovereignty over the state needs to happen collectively, for all its citizens," Rivlin said. "It can't be that in one area of land there are separate codes of law for Israelis and non-Israelis."
Sunday, the president decried new legislation passed by the country's parliament last week, which allows the expropriation of private Palestinian lands by retroactively legalizing West Bank settlement outposts, could cause Israel to look like an apartheid state.
"Israel has adopted international law. It does not allow a country acting according to it to apply and enforce its laws on territories that are not under its sovereignty. If it does so, it is a legal cacophony. It will cause Israel to be seen as an apartheid state, which it is not,” Rivlin said during a meeting held two days after the law was passed.
"There is no question here. The government of Israel is simply not allowed to apply the laws of the Knesset on territories that are not under the state’s sovereignty,” Rivlin is quoted saying by the Ha'aretz daily.
The so-called "Regularization Bill" allows Israel to expropriate privately owned Palestinian land on which settlement outposts have been illegally built. Palestinian owners would be compensated financially or with other land.
Opponents of the law both in Israel and the international community have condemned the bill, saying that it effectively legalizes the "theft" of more than 800 hectares of land that even Israeli law has accepted as Palestinian.
Its defenders argue the bill will allow settlers to live without fear of being driven from their homes -- many of which they have lived in for years.
It is seen as another step towards at least partial annexation of the West Bank, a key demand for parts of Netanyahu's right-wing cabinet, including the hardline Jewish Home party.
Rivlin also denounced proposed legislation that would allow the Knesset to override the Supreme Court, which is likely to rule the new law unconstitutional.
Such a proposal could allow the Knesset to pass the law for a second time while diminishing the Court's ability to reject it, Ha'aretz says, including by requiring a majority of nine out of 11 justices to overrule the legislation, or by allowing its implementation by Knesset for a limited time in spite of the Court's ruling.
Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, meanwhile, said that he would like to see all Palestinians living in the country relocate to territories controlled by Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority in order to preserve the Jewish majority of Israel.
Around 20 percent of Israel's 8.6 million citizens are Arabs.
"I want a Jewish state. Just as the Palestinians want a homogeneous Palestinian state, without a single Jew in it, judenrein, so I first and foremost want as Jewish a state [of Israel] as possible," Liberman said during an interview on Israel's Channel 2 news Saturday.
Liberman reiterated his position that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would involve not just land swaps, but "exchanges of territory and populations."
"I want to separate from all the Palestinians who live here inside pre-1967 [Israel]," he stated during the Hebrew interview. "With my blessing: You are Palestinians, you should go to [live under the rule of] Abu Mazen. You’ll be citizens of the Palestinian Authority. He’ll pay you unemployment benefits, health benefits, maternity benefits, hanging around benefits," he said, referring to Abbas by nickname.
Liberman warned against making unilateral moves to assert control in the West Bank, but encouraged Netanyahu to use his upcoming meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to work towards "an agreement" on "the question of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria."
Right-wing lawmakers have reportedly been pressuring Netanyahu to use his parle with the new American president to coordinate updated policies with regards to the Palestinians and remove independent Palestinian statehood from the American agenda.
Hardline Education Minister and Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennet was instead reportedly pushing Netanyahu to present Trump with an updated policy which objects to any curbs on settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem and which abandons the two-state solution, Ha'aretz said.
U.S. policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian issue has become less clear in the first few weeks of Trump's presidency. Trump on Friday appeared to backtrack his initial declaration that settlements were not an obstacle to peace, telling the Israel Hayom newspaper that continued construction is not helpful to advancing the peace process.
"There is limited remaining territory. Every time you take land for a settlement, less territory remains. I'm not someone who believes that advancing settlements is good for peace." Trump said.
Trump however, added that he expects the Palestinians to make concessions for peace too as "no deal is a good deal if it isn’t good for all sides."
Trump and Netanyahu will meet at the White House on Wednesday February 15.
(Staff with agencies)
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