Israel recognizes four illegal West Bank outposts
Published Thursday, May 16, 2013
Israel plans to declare legal four unauthorized West Bank settler outposts, a court document showed on Thursday, a day after the 65th anniversary of the Nakba.
Israel’s continued settlement policy remains one of the biggest obstacles to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to revive negotiations with Palestinians.
The Nakba, or catastrophe, refers to the 1948 campaign to cleanse Palestine of non-Jews, which drove more than 750,000 Palestinians away from their homes.
In a reply to a Supreme Court petition by the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now, the government said it had taken steps in recent weeks to authorize retroactively four West Bank outposts built without official permission, which it had previously pledged to at least partially demolish.
"The intention to legalize outposts as new settlements is no less than a slap in the face of Secretary Kerry's new process and is blatant reassurance to settler interests," Peace Now said in a statement.
"The... government is indicating it is not committed to peace nor to a two-state solution."
A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment on the government's response to the court.
Givat Assaf, Givat HaRoeh, Maaleh Rehavam and Mitzpe Lachish outposts are among six listed in a 2005 government report as deserving immediate eviction and later ordered shut by a court order. Repeated government appeals have delayed the process.
The Supreme Court is to hear the Peace Now petition on May 22.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are deemed illegal by international law. Israel disputes this and distinguishes between about 120 government-authorized settlements and dozens of outposts built by settlers without permission.
Last week, Peace Now and Israeli media reports said Netanyahu has been quietly curbing some settlement activity by freezing tenders for new housing projects, in an apparent effort to help the US drive to renew peace talks.
But Peace Now said at the time construction already under way was continuing, and Israel announced last week that it had given preliminary approval for 300 new homes in Beit El settlement as part of a plan Netanyahu announced a year ago.
Some 500,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. About 2.7 million Palestinians live in those areas.
(Reuters, Al-Akhbar, AFP)