The Israeli government convened on Sunday, 4 February, 2018, to approve a new Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
The government said, according to Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, that it had decided to “regularize” the illegal Gilad settlement outpost, to connect it to the electrical and water grids, and to pave an access road for “security and humanitarian reasons”.
The government and the Ministerial Committee for Legislation also debated, on Sunday, a bill that would allow the transfer of Palestinian land in the West Bank – what the government considers to be “state” land in contradiction of the international consensus and international law – to the World Zionist Organization’s (WZO) Settlement Division for the purposes of settlement construction.
Suhad Bishara, Director of the Land and Planning Rights Unit at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, sent an urgent letter to members of the Israeli government and the Committee for Legislation, and to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, prior to Sunday’s meeting demanding that they reject the two proposals on the grounds that they violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law applicable in the occupied West Bank.
Regarding the establishment of a new Israeli settlement at the Gilad outpost, Attorney Bishara wrote:
“This proposal has a clear political purpose… and it would transform the Israeli military commander in the West Bank into the operational arm of the Israeli executive branch. The proposed decision would violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer of a civilian population of the occupying power into occupied territory… The transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into occupied territory is listed as a war crime in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”
The bill that would grant the WZO’s Settlement Division management over West Bank lands is the latest attempt by Israel to apply Israeli civil law to occupied territories. It has many parallels to Israel’s controversial Settlement Regularization Law, which has drawn strong international criticism and is currently being challenged before the Israeli Supreme Court for its gross violation of international law.
“The [WZO’s] Settlement Division has no standing in international law and is not authorized to operate in occupied [West Bank] territory. It would not manage the land for the benefit of the Palestinian population, but rather in accordance with Israel Land Administration policy and directives from the Israeli government. In other words, [West Bank] land management would be in the hands of [Jewish] Israeli citizens for the benefit of Jewish Israeli citizens, in line with Zionist settlement policies,” argued Adalah.