The United States has described as “troubling” an Israeli bill supported by a ministerial committee allowing settlers in the occupied West Bank to remain in homes built on private Palestinian land, adding that it hoped the law does not pass.
“We are deeply concerned about the advancement of legislation that would allow for the legalisation of illegal Israeli outposts located on private Palestinian land,” State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told a briefing on Monday.
While most of Israel’s settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank – all of which are illegal under international law – are constructed under the auspices of the Israeli government, outposts are built without authorisation and technically illegal under Israeli law.
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If the law were enacted it could pave the way for the legalisation of dozens of unauthorised settlement outposts deep in the West Bank.
“This would represent an unprecedented and troubling step that’s inconsistent with prior Israeli legal opinion and also break long-standing policy of not building on private Palestinian land,” Trudeau said.
The US believes settlements endanger the prospects for a two-state solution and Israeli-Palestinian peace, Trudeau added.
“We hope it doesn’t become law.”
The ministerial committee defied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and voted on Sunday to back the bill, which will be debated by parliament on Wednesday and is still some distance from becoming law.
Israel’s Attorney-General Avihai Mandelblit has called the bill legally flawed in its current form, saying that it contravened private property rights legislation and did not tally with Israel’s international law commitments.
The settlement project began after Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
In the 1970s, with the government’s encouragement, large number of Jews began moving on to the occupied land. There are now more than 550,000 settlers living on occupied Palestinian land.