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Israel to propose annexing large settlement in Jerusalem

The illegal Ramat Shlomo settlement, located on Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem, seen on December 29, 2016 [Daniel Bar On / Anadolu Agency]
The illegal Ramat Shlomo settlement, located on Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem, seen on December 29, 2016 [Daniel Bar On / Anadolu Agency]

Israel's education minister and leader of the far right, pro-settlement Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett said on Sunday that he plans to introduce legislation this month that would extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jerusalem-area settlement of Ma'ale Adumim.

In a tweet, Bennett said his Orthodox-nationalist party would present to the Knesset what he described as a coalition-backed plan to lawmakers later this month — presumably after the January 20 inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

"Before the end of January, we, together with all the coalition parties, will propose a bill for the imposition of Israeli law on Ma'aleh Adumim," Bennett said.

Habayit Hayehudi chairman called on the government to pass a law annexing Ma'aleh Adumim, a large settlement east of Jerusalem, to Israel by the end of the month. "I expect all members of the government to support the bill", he added.

The issue of annexation is one of the most divisive in the coalition, due primarily to concern over the reaction of the international community to the move.

It is due to be discussed by the Knesset Law Committee in a special session on Monday morning. Ma'aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kasriel and the heads of the Knesset Land of Israel lobby, MKs Yoav Kish (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), are scheduled to attend the meeting, according to Haaretz.

Maale Adumim is the third largest settlement in population size, encompassing a large swath of land deep inside the occupied West Bank. Many Israelis consider it an Israeli suburban city of Jerusalem, despite it being located on occupied Palestinian territory in contravention of international law.

Bennett has long proposed that Israel annex large parts of the West Bank, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state in that area poses a threat to Israel's existence.

On Thursday, he asserted the arrival of a Trump administration would see a shift in Israel's West Bank policies, including the annexation of Ma'ale Adumim, a city with some 40,000 residents.

The head of Orthodox-nationalist party, whose party counts the settlement movement as a major part of its voter base, ran in elections on a platform of de facto annexation of Area C (the parts of the West Bank under Israeli civilian and military control) and extending a type of semi-autonomy to Palestinians in the rest of the territory.

Bennett reacted to the UN Security Council's resolution by calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rescind his support for the two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state, which Bennett perceives to be a security threat to the state of Israel.

Israel has controlled the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War but has never moved to annex any of the territory beyond extending sovereignty to East Jerusalem. It later applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, captured from Syria.

Most experts see Israel's policy of extending sovereignty, in moves widely unrecognised by the international community, as tantamount to annexation.

Ma'an News Agency has reported that Human rights' organisations have argued that under the guise of a "temporary military occupation," Israel has been "using the land as its own: robbing land, exploiting the area's natural resources for its own benefit and establishing permanent settlements," estimating that Israel had dispossessed Palestinians from some 200,000 hectares (494,211 acres) of lands in the occupied Palestinian territory over the years.

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