The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) today released the following statement expressing concern over the controversial passage on Monday night of the settlements regulation bill in Israel’s Knesset, which would retroactively legalise settlement outposts built on land owned by Palestinians while providing compensation in return:
“While just about everyone – including Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, Israeli and foreign international law experts, and Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman – agrees that Israel’s Supreme Court will likely strike down this law, AIJAC believes that it remains a counter-productive and unwise piece of legislation aimed at pandering to fringe constituencies at the expense of Israel’s integrity and image abroad.
“The biggest barrier to peace at the moment is the Palestinian refusal to negotiate, not settlements – which comprise just one of the contentious final status issues that must be negotiated directly between Israel and the Palestinians, and one whose importance has often been exaggerated and distorted. However, this unhelpful law seems likely to make resolving that issue more difficult when and if the Palestinians end their self-destructive boycott of the negotiating table.
“It also is important to remember that settlements still comprise less than two percent of the land in the West Bank, and this law will not substantively change that reality, nor is it likely to result in any new housing being built. Moreover, one must not lose sight of the fact that – even in the unlikely event this law was to stand up to a Court challenge – it would not prevent any future Israeli government from implementing the painful withdrawals from territory that would constitute a Palestinian state, as provided for in the previous peace offers Israel made to, but ignored by, the Palestinians in 2000, 2001 and 2008.
“Yet while the negative effects of this new law should not be exaggerated or distorted, AIJAC nonetheless remains concerned that it does not serve the long term interests of Israel, including the nurturing of circumstances conducive to an eventual negotiated two-state resolution.”
Mark Leibler, AC – National Chairman
Dr. Colin Rubenstein, AM – Executive Director