Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the Jewish Home party, hailed the preliminary passage of a controversial bill to legalize Israeli settlement outposts as paving the way for Israel’s eventual annexation of Judea and Samaria.
The legislation passed its first legislative test Monday, passing a preliminary Knesset reading in a 60-49 vote. The bill still faces three more readings before it can become law.
The measure has been staunchly opposed by many in Israel, including Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who has said that the bill violates international law. The measure has been also opposed by the U.S., the European Union, and the United Nations. Israeli opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog called the preliminary passage a “dark day for the Knesset.”
But Bennett said, “Today, the Israeli Knesset moved from heading toward establishing a Palestinian state to heading toward sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, and to remove any doubt about it—the outpost regulation bill is the tip of the iceberg in applying sovereignty.”
The bill, which originally was designed to prevent the court-ordered Dec. 25 demolition of the Amona outpost, will not prevent that community from being relocated after a compromise was reached between Bennett and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Instead, the bill will recognize other Israeli settlement construction that took place on private Palestinian land—including instances in which settlers were not aware the land was privately owned or received some form of state assistance—in good faith. Additionally, the bill provides compensation for Palestinian landowners.
According to the settlement watchdog group Peace Now, the bill will enable the Israeli government to legalize 55 outposts and build another 4,000 housing units in Judea and Samaria.