Israel Retroactively Legalizes Settler Homes on Palestinian Land

Israel has passed a controversial bill that drew condemnation from the government's own top lawyer legalising thousands of settler homes built on privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank.

The measure is created to protect homes in Jewish settlements, built on private Palestinian property "in good faith or at the state's instruction", from possible court-ordered evacuation and demolition.

The parliamentary session ahead of the final readings began on Monday afternoon but was adjourned a short while later after all opposition members withdrew their reservations.

Adalah, an Israeli group that protects Arab rights, said it would immediately file a challenge in the Supreme Court if the bill is approved. But its passage may only be largely symbolic as it contravenes Israeli Supreme Court rulings on property rights.

"By passing this law, Netanyahu makes theft an official Israeli policy and stains the Israeli law books", the group said in a statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the legislation and has told his constituents that no government had done more for the settlers.

The Deputy Attorney-General also told the committee that the High Court of Justice in endorsing the Gaza withdrawal in its most expanded panel, voted 10-1 that Palestinians have special protected status under global law, but that Jewish-Israelis in the West Bank who moved there after 1967 do not.

Trump and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet in Washington on February 15.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as parts of a future state.

Much of the worldwide community, including the United Nations and the European Union, consider the settlements to be an illegal taking of land envisioned as a future homeland for Palestinians.

For the first time last week Trump's administration said settlement expansion "may not be helpful" for peace prospects, but also broke with previous administrations by saying settlements were not an obstacle to peace.

"President Donald Trump hasn't been as strong on condementaion of settlements as previous United States administrations", our correspondent said.

Under the bill, Palestinian owners would be financially compensated by Israel, but could not sell their land. "I don't get excited", Netanyahu said in an apparent reference to his Jewish Home allies.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist, racist coalition government are deliberately breaking the law and destroying the very foundations of the two-state solution and the chances for peace and stability", Ashrawi said.

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