JERUSALEM (JTA) — A controversial bill to legalize some unauthorized West Bank outposts, especially targeting Amona, was approved by a Knesset committee.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation advanced the bill on Sunday to the full parliament.
The measure was sponsored by the Jewish Home party in an effort to save Amona, which Israel’s Supreme Court has determined was built on private Palestinian property and ordered demolished by Dec. 25.
Under the bill, the government would pay the Palestinian landowners large sums of money and give them new property in exchange for their land.
Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked brought the bill to the committee over the objections of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
On Oct. 31, the State Attorney’s Office asked for a delay of seven months from the Dec. 25 deadline to evacuate Amona, saying it could not arrange alternative housing for the residents before the target date. The government indicated at the time of the request that it would go ahead with the demolition of the settlement on time if required. The request was denied.
On Monday morning, opposition leader Isaac Herzog stirred controversy by using the word “virus” in an interview about the measure, with some critics believing he was referencing the settlers.
“I understand the pain of the families, but [the Supreme Court] gave them two years to clear out, and look what this virus has done to the State of Israel and how dangerous it is to democracy because of this nonsense,” Herzog told Army Radio.
Netanyahu called on Herzog to apologize.
“I can’t believe Herzog used the term ‘virus’ in connection with settlers. They are flesh of our flesh, serve in the army, contribute to the country. Bouji, apologize immediately,” Netanyahu wrote, using Herzog’s nickname, on Twitter and Facebook.
Herzog later clarified on Twitter that he believes the controversial bill is the virus and called the settlers “brothers.”
“The Amona bill is the virus. A dangerous virus for the court and democracy. The settlers are our brothers and I will care for them more than you lie to them,” he wrote.