Knesset approves Settlement Division bill

New law will enshrine legal status of Settlement Division in funding and developing rural Jewish communities across Israel.

Orli Harari , | updated: 8:40 AM

Bezalel Smotrich
Bezalel Smotrich
Yonatan Sindel / Flash 90

After several hours of deliberations following months of battling, the Knesset approved Thursday morning a bill to regulate the legal status of the Settlement Division as part of the World Zionist Organization. 

Submitted by MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), the bill passed its second and third readings by a majority of 53 MKs in favor to 48 opposed. One Knesset member abstained. 

The bill will enshrine into law the WZO Settlement Division's role in funding and developing rural Jewish communities in the Golan, Binyamin and Judea Hills, Jordan Valley, Hevron Hills and the Galilee and the Negev, subject, however, to the government's approval. 

"The purpose of the bill is anchored in legalizing the longstanding engagement between the Israeli government and the WZO Settlement Division, which for decades has served as the singular body for settlement development in Israel, and the realization of the Zionist mission of the State of Israel," the explanatory notes to the proposal read.

MK Smotrich praised the passing of the bill, noting that "as someone who grew up on the values of Zionism and settlements I am very pleased at the privilege that the first bill I passed in the Knesset is this one."

He stressed the law was important for two reasons - making note of the Settlement Division's longstanding and effective role in building up new Israeli communities as well as making clear Israel was being led "according to the Zionist vision."

"Today, it was clarified that despite perceptions among Israel's Left, who outright reject the concept of settlements, Zionism has won," Smotrich stressed. "During the struggle of the last few months, the forces in the Knesset tired of Zionism came together to bring down this law. Today, despite that, Zionism has won."