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Outpost regulation bill passes first reading in Knesset

The Jewish outpost Amona in the West Bank pictured on November 16, 2016
Uri Shapira/ i24news
Bill passed with 58 votes in favor and 50 against

Israel's Knesset on Wednesday in a preliminary reading passed the controversial outpost Regulation Bill which would potentially see thousands off homes in the West Bank legalized.

The bill passed with 58 votes in favor and 50 against.

The vote comes two days after the supreme court rejected an appeal to delay the demolition of the wildcat Amona outpost in the West Bank.

There were rumblings of disorder in the government coalition ahead of the vote, as Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon threatened not to vote in favor of the legislation.

“If it turns out that it will be damaging to the High Court we won’t support it. The law will never happen,” Kahlon said in a statement Tuesday to the press.

On Wednesday, however he backed down following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he sought assurances over the bills potential harm to the court.

"I just left the prime minister and we agreed that the Knesset Speaker will announce that the bill does not damage the High Court," Kahlon said, adding that Kulanu may still oppose the bill in the future.

"If it harms the Supreme Court at any stage of the legislative progress, Kulanu will oppose it," he said.

Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennet had warned that if Kahlon votes no or decides not to be present for the bill vote, his party will not support legislation put forth by Kahlon's Kulanu party, including approving the budget, reported Israel's Walla! news.

Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint Arab List decried the bill's passing and said that Israel is showing the world it has no intention to end the "occupation."

In a tweet Odeh wrote: "The government ripped off its mask and has begun the process of annexation of the West Bank, thereby sending a clear message to the world that it does not see the occupation as a temporary situation and is not looking towards a solution."

A group which has been fighting against the outpost's demolition on the other hand issued a statement hailing the vote as a "significant step."

"The Israeli government and parliament made a significant step to keep Amona in its place forever, and normalize the greater settlement in Judea and Samaria," the statement said.

Menahem Kahana (AFP)

"We expect and believe the court will respect this democratic decision," it continued, adding "We will keep up our struggle for Amona."

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has stood firmly against the bill and has said that it contradicts Israeli law. "The bill allows the expropriation of private property contrary to Israeli law, and in a manner that is consistent with Israel's obligations under international law. The bill is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the rule of law, in that it contradicts the obligation incumbent on the authorities to respect the decisions of the judiciary in individual cases," he said.

Amona, home to about 40 families, was built on lands privately owned by Palestinians, who successfully petitioned Israeli courts for the outpost's removal.

The bill however goes far beyond legalising Amona and would allow an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Jewish homes in the West Bank built on Palestinian land to be legalized.

Palestinian landowners would be offered compensation in exchange, but Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit says the move would undermine private property laws.

The Regulation Bill aims to override the supreme court ruling that the outpost must be demolished by December 25, and must pass three readings before officially becoming law.

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