Jerusalem–Israel’s parliament started voting overnight on reviving a law which gives settlers in the occupied West Bank access to civilian law, while their Palestinian neighbours face military courts.
The session marks the first legislative move since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office last month, at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israeli history.
“We have started to believe again in our right over the whole of the land of Israel and we are back to reinforce the settlements,” Justice Minister Yariv Levin said.
The legislation, which has been repeatedly renewed since Israel seized the Palestinian territory in the 1967 Six-Day War, hit a stumbling block in June, contributing to the previous government’s collapse.
Some members of the then coalition opted to vote against the law, which grants some 475,000 West Bank settlers the same rights as citizens living in Israel.
The opposition then led by Netanyahu went against its ideological support of settlements to defeat the legislation, as a way of destabilising the ruling coalition.
The government subsequently dissolved parliament, a move which sparked elections while also temporarily renewing the legislation on settlers.
In their first vote on renewing the law for a further five years, 58 lawmakers voted in favour with 13 against.
The text will face a second and third reading in parliament before its final approval.
Some 2.9 million Palestinians living in the West Bank are subjected to Israeli military law.
The Palestinian foreign ministry condemned what it called the “racist” law, saying it was aimed at the “progressive, creeping and silent annexation of the occupied West Bank”.
Settlements in the territory are considered illegal under international law, a claim disputed by Israel.
Netanyahu’s coalition includes numerous extreme-right ministers who are ardent supporters of settlement expansion and have been handed key powers regarding the West Bank.