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Foreign Minister Brende strongly criticises Israeli expropriation law

'Israel's adoption of a law legalising settlements built on privately-owned Palestinian land, in violation of international law, is deeply worrying,' said Foreign Minister Børge Brende.

Israel's national assembly, the Knesset, voted on 6 February to pass a law that, unless it is struck down, will deprive Palestinians of their property rights. The immediate effect will be to prevent the demolition of settlements that have been built in contravention of Israeli law on privately-owned Palestinian land. This is the first time the Knesset has passed a law to regulate the status of Palestinian land in the West Bank, except for East Jerusalem.

'Authorising the expropriation of privately-owned Palestinian property and placing it under Israeli civil jurisdiction is a dramatic new development. Like the EU, Norway considers this law to raise serious doubts about Israel's declared support for a two-state solution. This law should not be implemented. If it were to enter into force, it would be a very serious obstacle to realising a two-state solution,' Mr Brende pointed out.

The law was passed after the evacuation of the Amona settlement last week. As Amona was built on privately-owned Palestinian land, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal and had to be demolished. The situation is the same for many other settlements. The Israeli authorities have also announced that several thousand new housing units are to be built in existing settlements, several of which deep in the West Bank. In addition, the building of a new settlement to replace Amona is being considered.

'All the settlements in the West Bank are in violation of international law and a serious obstacle to peace. The announcements in recent weeks of plans for several settlement expansions are highly regrettable and give cause for concern. Only a two-state solution can resolve the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. The new law will undermine the prospects of a two-state solution,' said Mr Brende.