Jerusalem (AFP) - Israel's parliament on Monday discussed the final adoption of a bill that would allow it to appropriate hundreds of hectares of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.
A committee backed the bill but around 500 revisions will be voted on separately in a process starting Tuesday.
Lawmakers will then vote on the bill in two further readings, with parliament expected to approve it.
The bill is backed by Israel's rightwing government but has alarmed the international community and supporters of an independent Palestinian state.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation labelled the bill a "declaration of war", and called on the international community to intervene.
The law would legalise at least 3,921 Jewish homes on the occupied West Bank built in contravention of Israeli law, according to the anti-settlement organisation Peace Now.
It would be the first time Israel has applied its own civil law to land it recognises as Palestinian-owned in the West Bank, law professor Amichai Cohen told AFP.
Around 2,000 Israelis, including many settlers, protested outside parliament Monday in support of the law, an AFP correspondent said.
Israeli law distinguishes between settlements it considers legal and so-called "outposts", but the bill would legalise 54 of the latter, Peace Now said.
The owners of the land would be compensated financially or with land elsewhere.
The attorney general has told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the bill would be unconstitutional and could open up Israel to international criminal prosecutions.
Addressing his Likud faction on Monday, Netanyahu insisted his coalition would advance the bill "this week."
"This bill's purpose is to prevent recurring attempts to harass the Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria," he said, using the biblical term for the West Bank.
Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said his Yisrael Beitenu faction would support the bill, despite reports that the attorney general has said he would refuse to defend the law if it were challenged in court.
"The chance that it will be struck down by the supreme court is 100 percent," Lieberman said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said that "all the legal advisors are opposed" to the bill which posed a "danger to Israel," both internally and internationally.
International law considers all settlements in the West Bank, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East war, to be illegal, and they are seen as a major obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
- 'Significant success' -
At Monday morning's protest, around 2,000 people marched to parliament, with teenagers holding signs condemning the demolition of any Jewish homes in the West Bank.
"Israel – the only country that destroys Jewish homes," one sign read.
"If the regularisation bill passes that would be a very significant success for the Jewish people," David Goldenberg, a 29-year-old protester from Jerusalem, told AFP.
"This is our land. We came here because of our history, because this is the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
Many Israeli rightwingers see all of the West Bank as part of Israel and have called for it to be annexed.
Following Donald Trump's inauguration as US president last week, Netanyahu has greenlighted thousands of new settlement homes in the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem.
Trump has indicated he will be far more supportive of Israeli settlement building than his predecessor Barack Obama, who criticised them throughout his time in office.
At the protest, Yehudit Tayar, a spokeswoman for the Yesha council which represents settlers, denied the bill's passing was the result of Trump's election, although she admitted it may have sped up the process.
"It doesn't start with Trump. It starts here in our nation -- the responsibility to protect our land and our people."
The Trump administration declined to comment on Israel's announcement of 2,500 new settlement homes on January 20, breaking with Obama's policy of condemning such plans.
The proposal being debated Monday was approved by parliament for the first time in early December.
Netanyahu suggested at the time that the proposal be shelved until Trump took over, according to media reports.