12/20/2011 03:37 pm ET

Israeli Museum Bill Could Push Parts Of The West Bank Toward Annexation

A controversial new bill concerning museums in disputed West Bank territory has made its way through a first reading in Israel's Knesset (parliament). The bill passed easily in the preliminary session; if it becomes law, it would allow the allocation of government funding to museums in settlements, pockets of Israeli residents in territory the nation has controlled since the Six-Day War in 1967.

Far-right MK Uri Ariel, who authored the bill, has been explicit that his legislation would represent a step toward the annexation of these areas, commenting that the bill would "strengthen settlement and Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria," and adding, ''There are other laws that apply in Judea and Samaria, but this one is outstanding in the sense that it is right there in the name. This is a bit of an innovation."

Settlers outside of Israel proper are already held to the same tax code and have access to the National Health Insurance enjoyed by residents in the traditional borders, and the precedent that the government can reach its citizens at a distance has brought about the recent push for settlers' rights.

Unsurprisingly, the added leverage this measure would provide has drawn the ire of Palestinians. CS Monitor quotes Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi, who called the bill "the death knell of any chances of peace" and accused Israel of continuing to seek a "one-state solution" to the ongoing West Bank dispute.

The bill will need to make it through two additional readings to pass, but given the across-the-aisle support of Culture Minister Limor Livnat and other key Knesset figures, the new law and resulting expansion of Israel's cultural purview is likely.


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