Israeli lawmakers passed a bill Monday legalizing thousands of Israeli settlement homes on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The bill, which was approved by the Knesset in a 60-52 vote, would enable the Israeli government to declare land on which settlements or outposts were built “in good faith” as state property, and would compensate Palestinian landowners with money or alternative land, regardless if the owners agreed to give up the property. While far-right lawmakers like Education Minister Naftali Bennet praised the vote, opposition leader Isaac Herzog warned of the international scrutiny that could follow, adding that: “The train leaves from here will only stop at The Hague.” Palestinian officials quickly condemned the law, warning that the move would “destroy” any chances of a diplomatic solution and would force the Palestinians to “rethink their relations with Israel.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was not in Israel for the vote, denied reports he tried to postpone the move until after he spoke with the Trump administration and said he only informed U.S. officials that the vote was taking place. The Trump administration, in a departure from decades of U.S. policy, has thus far been more sympathetic to Israeli settlement expansion. In response to Israel’s recent decision to build 2,500 settler homes in the West Bank, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said last week that the Trump administration “has not taken an official position on settlement activity” and that it does not regard settlements as an impediment to peace. The law is expected to be challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court.
—John Bercow, the speaker of Britain’s House of Commons, said he would “strongly oppose” allowing U.S. President Trump to address Parliament. More here
—Israeli lawmakers passed a bill legalizing thousands of Israeli settlement homes on Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
Israel Legalizes Thousands of Settlement Homes in the West Bank
Suspect Behind Florida Mosque Fire Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison
The man who confessed to setting fire to a Florida mosque last September was given a 30-year prison sentence Monday after he pleaded no contest to second-degree arson. Joseph Schreiber, 32, was arrested by Florida police in September after surveillance footage showed a man setting fire to the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce using a bottle of liquid and some papers. No injuries were reported. The center was known for being the mosque where Pulse Nightclub Shooter Omar Mateen sometimes prayed, and the arson corresponded with both the 15th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Schreiber, who lives near the mosque, had written posts on social media claiming “all Islam is radical,” and prosecutors said he confessed to setting the fire because he believed Muslims “are trying to infiltrate our government.” In court Monday, Schreiber said the fire was caused not by hate, but by his anxiety.
U.K.'s Speaker Says He Opposes Trump's Speech to Parliament
John Bercow, the speaker of Britain’s House of Commons, said Monday he would “strongly oppose” allowing U.S. President Trump to address Parliament. Prime Minister Theresa May had invited Trump to visit the U.K. during her trip to the U.S. a week after the president’s inauguration. But since then, many U.K. lawmakers—and indeed May herself, though more tepidly—have criticized Trump’s travel ban on people from seven Muslim and predominantly Muslim countries. Trump’s official visit to the U.K. is expected to move ahead despite massive public opposition. Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Obama have all addressed Britain’s Parliament; three officials must sign off on an invitation; Bercow, the speaker, is one of them. On Monday while speaking in favor of a motion signed by 163 members of Parliament to bar Trump from the Houses of Parliament, Bercow said: “I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations.” He added “an address by a foreign leader to both Houses of Parliament is not an automatic right, it is an earned honor.” His words were greeted with applause, an unusual gesture in the House of Commons. Bercow, a member of May’s Conservative Party before he became speaker, received support in the form of tweets from members of the opposition Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, and the Green Party.
Bercow has just put Trump to the sword without bothering with the usual treason trial in Westminster Hall.— Chris Bryant MP (@RhonddaBryant) February 6, 2017
Top Security Officials Call Trump's Travel Ban 'Ill-Conceived'
A group of bipartisan national security and intelligence officials, including former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, signed a letter Monday addressed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that admonishes the Trump administration’s travel ban, calling it “ill-conceived.” In the letter, the group of 10 top former officials wrote: “We view the Order as one that ultimately undermines the national security of the United States, rather than making us safer.” As well as giving ISIS a recruiting tool, the letter reads, “it could do long-term damage to our national security and foreign policy interests, endangering U.S. troops in the field and disrupting counterterrorism and national security partnerships.” Through the letter, the officials have sided with the state of Washington and Minnesota, which both filed suits to halt Trump’s ban on people traveling into the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries. A federal judge in Seattle on Friday issued a temporary halt on the ban, which Trump appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court. Over the weekend, that court refused to hear Trump’s appeal. For now, this letter, which will be entered as Exhibit A in the state’s case, is more symbolic than anything. The Trump administration is expected to file its response to the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision sometime Monday.
Bipartisan NatSec officials to court: “In our professional opinion, the Order was ill-conceived, poorly implemented and ill-explained.” pic.twitter.com/l02Ncs4vPe— WA Attorney General (@AGOWA) February 6, 2017
France's Fillon Vows to Continue Presidential Campaign Despite Scandal
François Fillon, the center-right French presidential candidate, addressed the scandal plaguing his campaign, acknowledging that employing his wife and children as parliamentary aides was an “error.” “By working with my wife and children, I have privileged this collaboration of trust which now arouses suspicion,” Fillon said at his campaign headquarters in Paris. “It was a mistake and I apologize to the French.” The Republican candidate reaffirmed he “never broke the law” by paying his wife, Penelope Fillon, a salary for being a parliamentary aide—a role some allege she may not have held. The allegations were raised last month by Canard Enchaine, the satirical newspaper, which reported the former prime minister’s wife was paid 500,000 euros ($538,000) between 1998 and 2012 for a role no one could corroborate her having. The paper later reported the figure was closer to 1 million euros. The allegations prompted French authorities to launch an inquiry to determine if there was indeed a misuse of funds. It is not illegal for French parliamentarians to employ their family members to their office, though it is if they did not do the job. Fillon, who was previously projected to face Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate, in the in the election’s spring run-off, faces increasing competition from Independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, who has gained in recent polls. Fillon reaffirmed he would not drop out unless a formal investigation were launched, adding: “I am the only one that can lead this national recovery, and I will fight this fight.”
Legal Battle Looms Over Trump's Immigration Order
Here’s where the battle over President Trump’s executive order on immigration stands Monday: The Trump administration’s lawyers were ordered to submit a brief today defending the order that bans visitors from seven Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspends the U.S. refugee intake for 120 days. The Trump administration says the order’s goal is to keep the homeland safe. Civil-rights group said the order is unconstitutional and sued to block it. A federal judge in Seattle blocked the order Friday. The Trump administration appealed, but on on Sunday, a federal appeals court in California refused to reinstate the order. Nearly 100 U.S. companies, including Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft have filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the order; as did a bipartisan group of national-security experts.