Israel’s settlement Regulation Bill violates international law

Yael Ronen and Yuval Shany write: The proposed (and euphemistically titled) “Regulation Bill” is a bill pending before the Israeli Knesset which seeks to authorize the expropriation of private Palestinian property in order to render legal hundreds, if not thousands, of houses constructed unlawfully by Israeli West Bank settlers. It raises significant legal problems under Israeli law and under international law, as the latter is interpreted and applied by Israeli courts. Among many other problems, the Bill interferes with private property rights of Palestinian land owners in order to benefit Israeli settlers, and runs contrary to long-standing jurisprudence of the Israeli Supreme Court, according to which the construction of settlements in the West Bank can be permitted only on non-private land. It also raises serious issues concerning the power of the Israeli Knesset to regulate land rights in an area not subject to Israeli law (unlike East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, Israel has never extended its domestic law to the West Bank). It is for these reasons that the Attorney-General of the State of Israel has objected to the Bill and has taken the extraordinary step of declaring that he would not defend the State in litigation concerning the constitutionality of the Bill. Yet a group of lawyers, most of whom belong to a right-wing think tank, the Kohelet Policy Forum (where Eugene Kontorovich heads the international law department) have testified before a Knesset Committee and have published several op-eds maintaining that the Bill is valid under Israeli law, arguing inter alia that the Knesset may pass legislation which violates international law. They have also alleged as an alternative claim that the Bill does not violate international law, for reasons which are cited by Kontorovich in his Just Security post. In the following lines we address only this alternative claim, namely, that the draft Bill does not violate international law. We also disagree with the main claim made by the Kohelet lawyers, and believe that if the Bill is passed, it should be struck down by Israeli courts as unconstitutional. [Continue reading…]

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