Israel 'legalizes' three illegal West Bank settlements
Published Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Israel has legalized the status of three settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank – which are illegal under international law – the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
At a meeting late Monday, a ministerial committee "decided to formalize the status of three communities which were established in the 1990s following the decisions of past governments," said the statement.
The three outposts – Bruchin, Rechelim, and Sansana – had no Israeli legal status since being established.
Bruchin has about 350 residents and is located in the northern West Bank, along with Rechelim, which is home to about 240 people. Sansana, home to 240 people, is in the southern West Bank, near Hebron.
Israel's far-right government made a commitment to the Supreme Court that it would regulate the status of the outposts, and Netanyahu on Sunday formed a new four-man ministerial committee to seek legal solutions to the contested projects.
The Palestinian presidency slammed the Israeli decision in its reply to his letter, demanding a settlement freeze to renew peace talks.
"The decision on the settlements is the Israeli answer to president [Mahmoud] Abbas' letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," Palestinians' presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.
The Palestinians have rejected peace talks with Israel until the Jewish state agrees to a halt in settlement activity.
Netanyahu has instead pledged to expand illegal settlements in the West Bank in defiance of international law, as Israel seeks to absorb the territory into the Jewish state.
Hagit Ofran of Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now slammed the government for establishing new settlements in a deceitful way.
"The Israeli government is proving its true policy, that instead of going to peace it is building new settlements," she told AFP on Tuesday.
"This is the first time since 1990 that the government of Israel decides on establishing new settlements, and the government's maneuver, of establishing a committee to establish the settlements, is a trick aimed at hiding the true policy from the public."
Ofran stressed the decision changes the reality on the ground.
"All the years these outposts weren't legal, the state said they aren't for real, and now they suddenly are," she said.
Israel considers settler outposts built without government approval to be illegal, but the international community views all settlements as unlawful, whether approved by the government or not.
Israel is accused of implementing a system of apartheid in the West Bank, which has been under military occupation since 1967. Illegal Jewish settlers are granted extraordinary privileges, while harsh restrictions are imposed on indigenous Palestinians.