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Israel lawmaker suspended for voting against outpost legalization bill

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Israeli lawmaker Benny Begin

Israel’s ruling Likud coalition has suspended a veteran legislator from activity on a parliamentary committee after he broke ranks and voted against a bill authorizing illegal West Bank settlement outposts built on privately-owned Palestinian land.

Likud Coalition Chairman, David Bitan, decided on Tuesday to suspend 73-year-old Benny Begin from the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee for three weeks, a day after he refused to raise his hand in support of the so-called Regulation Bill during the Knesset plenum.  

The legislature decided to advance the controversial motion, which critics have described as illegal land grab, by 60 votes to 49.

Israeli opposition figures have slammed the suspension.

“The fact that they’re suspending Benny Begin says everything about the Likud of today. [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu exploited Begin’s integrity for his own needs during the [March 2015] elections – and now runs roughshod over him and the truth in his decisions,” said Tzipi Livni of the opposition Zionist Union.

Begin has stated that he does not regret voting against the Regulation Law, saying the bill “is very bad for Israel.”

“For the first time in 50 years, the Knesset is being asked to legislate a bill, which negatively impacts the rights of the Arab inhabitants of Judea and Samaria…. Unfortunately, under the auspices of this mechanism of coalition discipline we reached a very problematic area. Unfortunately others chose differently than me. I think I behaved properly…,” he said.

The so-called Regulation Bill is a revised version of legislation that, in its original form, defied the Israeli supreme court’s decision on the evacuation of the illegal Amona settlement outpost, located northeast of Ramallah in the central West Bank and allowed construction on private Palestinian land.

A picture taken on November 17, 2016 shows a general view of some caravans in the illegal settlement outpost of Amona in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Photo by AFP)

The supreme court decision had stipulated that the evacuation of Amona “must occur before December 25.”

The new bill has eliminated the clause that called for the 330 residents of the unlawful Amona settlement outpost to be moved to a nearby hill for eight months, after which they would be forced to move a second time.

More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinians state, with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

However, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine has created a major obstacle to that goal.

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