The way West Bank settlers live their lives could be about to change

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The way West Bank settlers live their lives could be about to change

A law that has failed to pass the Knesset means that Israeli settlers might soon be subject to Israeli military law — just like the Palestinians

Michael Daventry

Michael Daventry is Jewish News’s foreign and broadcast editor

This isn’t just another Israeli political crisis; it could completely change the way settlers in the West Bank live their lives.

When MKs voted this week to reject a five-year extension to Israel’s “emergency regulations”, they risked altering the rules that allow Israelis in the West Bank to live their lives much like their compatriots in Israel proper.

The regulations extend Israeli civilian law to over half a million settlers: it’s why they pay Israeli income tax, vote in Israeli elections and, if suspected of a crime, face trial in Israeli civilian courts.

It’s a necessary arrangement because, Jerusalem excepted, Israel has never annexed the West Bank. It isn’t a part of the country, even though Israelis live there; it’s a military occupation.

Politicians of all parties have dutifully voted to renew the regulations every five years since 1967, when Israel took the West Bank in the Six Day War.

But this week, the measure failed — even though the vast majority of MKs agree with it — because opposition parties led by Benjamin Netanyahu have spotted an opportunity to topple the shaky coalition government.

Ministers say the former prime minister is being a political opportunist and putting the settlers’ way of life at risk.

Of course, the kaleidoscope of left, right and Arab parties that has governed Israel since last summer has been in trouble for a while now.

But despite inflicting defeat in Monday’s vote, there will be no immediate return to power for Netanyahu: he doesn’t have enough support in the Knesset for that.

An early election, Israel’s fifth since April 2019, is a stronger possibility. For now the coalition lumbers on.

But if the regulations expire at the end of this month, what happens to the settlers? They become subject to Israeli military law — just like the Palestinians.

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