EU expresses ‘strong opposition’ to West Bank outpost bill

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The European Union expressed its “strong opposition” to a bill now under consideration in the Israeli Knesset that would pave the way toward the legalization of numerous settlement outposts in the West Bank.

In a statement Thursday, the union said the Regulation Bill, which passed its first of three readings late Wednesday, threatened to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an impossibility.

“If it passes, this would be the first law adopted by the Knesset on the status of land in the West Bank, an occupied territory not under its jurisdiction. Senior members of the Israeli government have called this a step toward annexation of the West Bank,” the statement said. “Recalling that settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make the two-state solution impossible, the European Union reiterates its strong opposition, in line with the position of the Middle East Quartet, to Israel’s settlement policy and all actions taken in this context.”

The bill would allow the Israeli government to recognize construction built with government assistance and in good faith — meaning those outposts whose builders were not aware they were constructing on private land. If the original owners of the land are known, they would be eligible to receive financial compensation from the government.

According to the settlement watchdog group Peace Now, the bill could legalize 55 outposts and 4,000 housing units in the West Bank.

Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, maintains that the bill is in violation of local and international law and has said the Supreme Court would likely void it.