RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association strongly oppose the Knesset’s passage earlier this week of a law known as the “Regularization Bill.” The law, which passed by a vote of 60-52, retroactively legalizes 4,000 settler housing units that were built without the Israeli government’s authorization on property the government acknowledges was privately owned by Palestinians. Israel’s attorney general urged the bill’s rejection and warned that it violates international law.
The law’s passage represents a new kind of threat to the possibility of a viable Israeli – Palestinian peace agreement. Muddying long-standing Israeli legal distinctions between legal and illegal actions involving land seizure in the West Bank, it is being celebrated by many Israeli right wing leaders as the beginning of what they hope will be a new Israeli policy of unilateral annexation of many parts of the West Bank. Israeli centrist and left wing leaders, meanwhile, have condemned the law as a repudiation of Israel’s core democratic and legal principles.
Isaac Herzog, who leads the Labor Party and who opposed the law, warned, “This government is passing a bill that is an acute danger to the State of Israel,” and he referred to it as “de facto annexation.” Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, said the law “damages the state of Israel, the security of Israel, governance in Israel and our ability to fight back against those who hate Israel.” Many Israeli and Jewish-American organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, have expressed similar concerns.
There are many obstacles to achieving a just and negotiated peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and some of those obstacles come from Palestinian leadership and extremist groups. Palestinian incitement, terrorism, and ideological extremism all deserve our unequivocal rejection and condemnation. At the same time, the almost 50-year-old Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, the expanding settlement movement, and the enormous impacts these policies have on Palestinian daily life also create obstacles to peace. The “Regularization Bill” adds a new obstacle to the prospects for peace, and it endangers the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. For this reason especially, we feel we must speak out. The law will be challenged and Israel’s Supreme Court will hopefully strike it down as contrary to the democratic institutions and ideals of the state of Israel.