Controversial bill to legalize West Bank outposts passes committee

Marcy Oster

Israeli settlers praying in the West Bank settlement of Amona, Feb. 1, 2006. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Israeli settlers praying in the West Bank settlement of Amona, Feb. 1, 2006. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A controversial bill to legalize some unauthorized West Bank outposts was approved by a Knesset committee.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will now pass the bill on to the Knesset plenum.

The bill was sponsored by the Jewish Home party in an effort to save the Amona outpost,  which Israel’s Supreme Court determined was built on private Palestinian property and which it has ordered demolished by Dec. 25.

Under the bill, known as the Arrangement Bill, the government would pay the Palestinian landowners large sums of money and give them new property in exchange for their land.

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The bill was brought to the committee Sunday by Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, despite opposition by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On Oct. 31, the State Attorney’s Office asked for a delay of seven months from the Dec. 25 deadline ordered by the Supreme Court to evacuate Amona, saying it could not arrange alternative housing for the residents before the target date. The government indicated at the time of the request that it would go ahead with the demolition of the settlement on time if required. The request was denied on Monday afternoon.

On Monday morning, opposition leader Isaac Herzog raised a firestorm by calling  either the outpost or the residents of Amona a “virus” in an interview.

“I understand the pain of the families, but [the Supreme Court] gave them two years to clear out, and look what this virus has done to the State of Israel and how dangerous it is to democracy, because of this nonsense,” Herzog told Army Radio.

Netanyahu called Herzog out on both Twitter and Facebook, calling on him to apologize for the comparison.

“I can’t believe Herzog used the term ‘virus’ in connection with settlers. They are flesh of our flesh, serve in the army, contribute to the country. Bouji, apologize immediately,” Netanyahu writes, using Herzog’s nickname.

Herzog later clarified on Twitter that he believes the controversial bill is the virus and called settlers “brothers.”

“The Amona bill is the virus. A dangerous virus for the court and democracy. The settlers are our brothers and I will care for them more than you lie to them,” he wrote.

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