February 20, 2011 - 1:00am

Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation debated Sunday a bill that would make it nearly impossible for defense chief to impose a freeze on settlement construction, local media reported.

According to The Jerusalem Post, the committee discussed the bill that calls to apply Israeli law to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which are currently subject to military rule.

The bill, sponsored by the National Union Party, passed its first reading in the 15th Knesset (Israel's parliament). Later, in the 16th Knesset, it was shelved after its initiators could not garner enough support to push it through the plenum.

Its passage into a law would nearly automatically deny Defense Minister Ehud Barak, or any other defense chief in the future, of the ability to approve or order the freeze of settlement construction in the West Bank, since jurisdiction over the matter would be in the hands of the Ministry of Housing and Construction, according to the report.

The bill's sponsors said it aims to end an "absurd" reality in which the residents of West Bank settlements are obliged to pay taxes like all Israelis living within the Green Line, but are denied other privileges of citizenry, which include standing trial in a military and not a civil court.

Though it already enjoys the support of 27 right-wing lawmakers, Uri Bank, secretary of the National Union faction, assessed that the bill will most likely not pass in the near future.

"The government should be using this type of legislation to counter what the Palestinians have been doing for the last couple of months," Bank was quoted as saying.

He was referring to the Palestinians leadership's unrelenting efforts to promote unilateral steps in the UN and the international community in recent months, highlighted by Friday's failed effort to obtain a draft resolution in the Security Council condemning settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian National Authority said it plans to call an emergency session of the UN General Assembly later this week in a bid to secure a resolution condemning Israel.

Direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians reached an impasse in late September following the prior's refusal to extend a self-imposed 10-month freeze on settlement construction. The Palestinians have conditioned their return to negotiations on a complete halt to that activity in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which they slate as the capital of their future state.


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