Middle East

Israeli bills draw Palestinian warning

Jewish settlers entering Amona outpost (20/10/16) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The fate of the Amona outpost has caused divisions within the government

A senior Palestinian official has said his government will go to the UN to stop what he called a series of "escalatory measures" by Israel.

Nabil Abu Rudeina said Israeli plans to legitimise wildcat Jewish settlements, and to quieten calls to prayer, will "bring disasters to the region".

On Sunday ministers backed two bills - one intended to stop the demolition of an unauthorised West Bank settlement.

The other bill would mainly impact on Muslims' call to prayer from mosques.

While the volume limitations it seeks to introduce would apply to all religions, mosques would have to curtail the five-times-daily calls to prayer.

Arabs account for almost 20% of the Israeli population, and the majority are Muslim.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Muslim call to prayer is sung five times a day, usually from a mosque's tower or minaret

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the measure would address countless complaints about excessively loud calls to prayer from public address systems, but critics say the move would be unnecessarily divisive.

The Palestinian Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs, Youssef Ideiss, said the plan threatened a "religious war", the Jerusalem Post newspaper reported.

Outpost 'must go'

Separately, ministers approved draft legislation which would retroactively legalise unauthorised Jewish settlements, or outposts, in the occupied West Bank.

The move was intended to prevent the removal of an outpost known as Amona, which the Supreme Court says was built on private Palestinian land.

Mr Abu Rudeina, spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinians would seek international help to stop Israel's plans.

On Monday, the court rejected a government petition to delay the demolition, upholding a ruling that it must be evacuated by 25 December.

The issue has caused tension within Israel's right-wing coalition government, with some members opposed to Amona's removal.

According to the anti-settlement movement Peace Now, there are 97 outposts in the occupied West Bank, and over 130 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Unlike officially recognised settlements, the government regards outposts as illegal.

Settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. Palestinians want all settlements and outposts to be removed from the West Bank and East Jerusalem which they seek for a future Palestinian state.