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Israel lawmakers vote against legalizing unauthorized settlement

The Israeli parliament on Wednesday voted 69-22 against a bill that would have legalized the unauthorized settlements in the West Bank on privately held Palestinian land. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [official website] urged lawmakers to vote against the bill [WP report] in the face of the country's Supreme Court [official website, in Hebrew] decision [JURIST report] ordering the 30 apartments in Ulpana neighborhood to be destroyed by July 1. The prime minister commented [press release] after the vote:

The State of Israel is a law-abiding democracy and as the Prime Minister of Israel I am committed to upholding the law and am I committed to uphold the settlement enterprise, and I tell you that there is no contradiction between the two. The draft law that was rejected today in the Knesset would have hurt settlement whereas the outline that I have decided upon—the expansion of the community, moving the homes and legal defense against any precedent—strengthens settlement.
Netanyahu also added that 300 new homes will be built in Belt-El. Additionally, Israel's Housing Minister Ariel Attias announced that additional 551 homes would be built in the West Bank settlement making it a total of 851 homes in the area. This announcement was heavily criticized by international authorities and the Palestinian government. The UN stated that all settlement construction in Palestinian territory is in violation of international law [UN News Centre report].

West Bank settlements have sparked tension between Israel and Palestinian authorities as well as criticism by international groups. Israel responded to international investigations into these settlements by announcing [JURIST report] in March that it will sever ties to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website]. The announcement came after the UNHRC initiated its investigation to determine the effect that Israeli settlements have had on the civil, political, economic and cultural rights of the Palestinian people. Israel argued that this investigation was founded on bias against Israel. A month before, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] had urged [JURIST report] Israel to amend its policies that forbid Palestinians from traveling through and living in Gaza and the West Bank. Even in March 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] called [JURIST report] in a press conference Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank "illegal."

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