Until now, Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank have enjoyed special rights, such as access to the Israeli civil legal system, since the territory was conquered in the Six Day War in 1967. However, a draft law to extend these regulations has now failed.
The Israeli ruling coalition failed on Monday in an attempt to extend the rules governing the application of Israeli law to the 500,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Chinese news agency said Xinhua reported.
The ragtag coalition, consisting of eight parties with different ideologies, including nationalist defenders of Israel’s illegal settlement policy and parties from the peace camp, was unable to achieve the majority needed to pass the bill. This provided for the emergency regulations with which Tel Aviv applies Israeli law to settlers to be extended. The proposed arrangement was defeated by a vote of 58 against and 52 in favor of the draft.
Two members of the coalition also voted against the bill: Mazen Ghanem from the Muslim Ra’am party and Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi from the liberal Meretz party. They condemned the current regulations as allowing an unjust legal regime in which Israelis and Palestinians are subject to two different legal systems in the same occupied territory. Thus, unlike Palestinians, Israeli settlers have the opportunity to appeal to Israeli civilian courts, while Palestinians only have access to military courts. If convicted, the Israelis would also go to civilian prisons instead of military prisons like the Palestinians.
The opposition, which mainly includes right-wing parties that support the settlers, such as the Likud, also voted against the bill, largely for tactical reasons, in an attempt to topple the coalition.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, leader of the pro-settler party Yamina, hastily stormed out of the Israeli parliament immediately after the vote. He then told Israeli media:
“This law will be passed. If not today, then tomorrow, if not tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow. This government will continue.”
The emergency regulations, first enacted in 1967, the year Israel conquered the West Bank in the War of Six, will expire at the end of June unless the government can pass legislation to extend them.
Should the regulations expire, the settlers would no longer receive social benefits and the police and other Israeli authorities would lose their powers in the West Bank, as Israel’s Justice Minister Gideon Saar pointed out in his speech before the parliamentary vote. The West Bank threatens to become a safe haven for crime.
Following the votes, Israeli commentators brought up the failure of the coalition. They saw the result of the vote as a serious blow to the government. A number of coalition MPs had resigned in recent months, causing the government, which originally had a razor-thin majority of 61 votes out of 120 in parliament, to lose.
A severe political crisis had already prevailed in Israel in the years 2019 to 2021. At the end of 2018, the government of then Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to call new elections after the nationalist politician Avigdor Lieberman had resigned from the post of defense minister and his party had withdrawn from the ruling coalition. In a period of three years, the Israelis had gone to the polls a total of four times. During this time, it had not been possible to form a government with a stable majority, so Netanyahu remained in office as an executive. A new government was only formed last summer.
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