UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] on Thursday expressed concern [press release] over proposed legislation in Israel that would retroactively legalize the Israeli outposts constructed on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. Currently there are about 570,000 Israeli settlers living in 130 settlements and 100 outposts in the West Bank. The legislation, which was approved in the first of the three readings by the Israel Parliament [official website] on Wednesday, would allow [JURIST report] for the construction of 4,000 settler homes. To be considered legal, the construction of these settlements would have be carried out in good faith [TOI report] as defined by the legislation. Peace Now [advocacy website], an Israel-based rights group supporting a two-state solution in the region, refers to the bill as “grand law robbery” [Al Jazeera report] that will deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution. According to the High Commissioner:
In enabling the use of land privately-owned by Palestinians for Israeli settlements without the owners’ consent, this legislation would violate international law according to which Israel, as the occupying power, must respect the private property of Palestinians, regardless of whether or not compensation is provided. … All Israeli settlements—[whether formally authorized or otherwise]—are clearly and unequivocally illegal under international law and constitute one of the main obstacles to peace
Zeid said that the implementation of this bill would negatively impact the reputation of Israel and “should alarm all those interested in seeing respect for international law, and all those who wish for a lasting peace for all the inhabitants of Israel and Palestine.”
Recent conflicts between Israel and Palestine [HRW backgrounder] over settlements in the occupied West Bank have raised concerns over possible human rights violations. Last month the Israel High Court of Justice (HCJ) [official website] ruled that the controversial Amona settlement in the West Bank must be dismantled [JURIST report] by December 25. Earlier the same month Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation unanimously approved [JURIST report] the Formalization Bill to legalize the West Bank outposts, which was intended in part to stop the evacuation of Amona outpost. In March the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the apparent extra-judicial execution of a Palestinian man in the West Bank. In January Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] businesses to cease operations in Israel settlements. In August 2015 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged both sides of the conflict [JURIST report] to reconcile and move towards peace after an attack occurred in the West Bank village of Duma, where Jewish extremists allegedly set fire to a Palestinian home while a family slept inside. In April 2015 HRW alleged [HRW report] that Israeli settlement farmers in the occupied West Bank were using Palestinian child laborers in dangerous conditions in violation of international laws.