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Israel approves bill paving way for annexation of West Bank

A picture taken on February 14, 2018 shows Israeli hydraulic shovels demolishing a Palestinian building near road 35, north of the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), in the so-called Area C. (Photo by AFP)

Israel has approved a bill to expand the jurisdiction of Israeli courts over Area C of the West Bank, paving the way for the annexation of the region.

The area is currently ruled by the military but an annexation would require Israeli law to be imposed and Palestinians living in the area to identify as Arab Israelis.

The ministerial committee for legislation on Sunday approved the measure introduced by justice minister Ayelet Shaked who is known for her extremist views regarding Palestinians. 

Her office claimed in a statement that the bill aimed to minimize the caseload of the high court of justice which rules on property rights, building and construction, and restraining orders.

Under the new provision, such cases will be adjudicated by the district courts.

The legislation is also designed to treat Israeli settlers living in the West Bank like those living within the pre-1967 borders, or the so-called Green Line.

The bill must be rubber-stamped by the Israeli parliament or the Knesset but it has already drawn condemnation for being part of a drive to annex Area C and deprive Palestinians living there of their rights.

Yousef Jabarin, a member of the Joint List which represents Palestinian citizens of Israel at the Knesset, slammed the measure as another initiative by Israel to normalize the occupation and to advance “creeping annexation” over the West Bank.

“The High Court of Justice has never treated the Palestinians in the territories justly,” Jabarin said, noting that the legislation will complicate and prolong legal proceedings, leaving Palestinians with little legal recourse.

A picture taken on February 7, 2018 from Mount Gerizim in the northern West Bank shows Israeli soldiers looking at the Palestinian city of Nablus. (Photo by AFP)

Under interim agreements signed in the 1990s with Israel, the West Bank is divided into three zones.

The Area C of the West Bank is the largest division in the occupied territory as it comprises 60 percent of the land, and is under full Israeli military control.

The Israeli military almost never grants Palestinians living in Area C building permits.

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

The presence and continued expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine, however, has created a major obstacle to the establishment of such a state.

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

The UN and most countries regard the Israeli settlements as illegal because they are built on territories captured by Israel in a war in 1967 and are hence subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied lands.

Nevertheless, the Israeli regime continues to build new settlements and expand existing ones.

US President Donald Trump on December 6 formally recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the so-called capital of Israel and announced plans to move the American embassy to the occupied city.

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