Israel grants legal status to three West Bank outposts

JERUSALEM Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:49am EDT

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel said on Tuesday it had granted legal status to three settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, a move that could shore up the governing coalition but which drew sharp Palestinian condemnation.

Israeli officials played down the decision taken by a ministerial committee late on Monday and rejected accusations that the government had effectively created the first new Jewish settlements for more than 20 years.

The three outposts -- Bruchin, Sansana and Rechelim -- were built on land Israel declared "state-owned" in the West Bank, an area it captured in the 1967 war and which Palestinians want as part of a future state.

"The panel decided to formalize the status of the three communities ... which were established in the 1990s following the decisions of past governments," said a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

Most of the international community views all Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal. However, Israel distinguishes between settlements it has approved and the outposts which were never granted official authorization.

Some 350 settlers live in Bruchin and 240 in Rechelim, both in the northern part of the West Bank, while Sansana, with a population of 240, lies further to the south.

None has been granted final Israeli legal status as formal communities and Netanyahu, though politically strong, has faced questions from within his own Likud party and other right-wing coalition partners about his commitment to settlers.

Israeli officials blamed unspecified technical issues for delaying the status change.

PALESTINIAN ANGER

Condemning the decision, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said "Netanyahu has pushed things to a dead end yet again".

Palestinians are awaiting a formal response from Netanyahu to a letter they sent last week in which Abbas repeated his call for an end to all settlement activity. Peace talks have been frozen since 2010 over the issue.

For years, Israel has promised its main ally, the United States, to remove dozens of outposts, but has done little to fulfill the pledge in the face of domestic political friction.

Netanyahu, however, drew fire from settlement leaders and Likud members after police evicted Jewish settlers three weeks ago from a building they said they had bought from a Palestinian in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement group, said the change of the three outposts' status marked the first time since 1990 that the Israeli government had established a new settlement, adding that the four-man committee did not have the authority.

"The Netanyahu government is trying to deceive the public and hide its true policy." it said in a statement. "This announcement is against the Israeli interest of achieving peace and a two-state solution."

In tandem with the decision on the three outposts, Netanyahu moved to patch up differences within his coalition over the future of a neighborhood threatened with demolition inside the West Bank settlement of Beit El.

The dispute over who owns land on which five dwellings in the Ulpana neighborhood have been built, has exposed a fault line in the cabinet between members of Netanyahu's Likud party and his more centrist defense minister, Ehud Barak.

Israel has promised the Supreme Court, which is looking into Palestinian claims of ownership to the land, to evict the settlers in the disputed homes by May 1.

Barak, drawing criticism from several Likud ministers and legislators, has said the government would stand by that pledge.

But in an interview with Army Radio on Tuesday, Netanyahu said the government would seek a solution to the problem and ask the Supreme Court to push back the May 1 deadline.

(Additional reporting by Naama Shilony in Jerusalem and Noah Browning in Ramallah; editing by Crispian Balmer)

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Comments (2)
1XslaveUSA wrote:
U.S. support for Zionist Israel is unconditional, no matter how many international laws the Zionists break nor how many U.N. mandates the Israelis ignore. The pro-Zionists in the Quartet & the U.N. will facilitate the Israeli delaying tactics in making peace with the Palestinians whilst the Zionists continue to oppress the Palestinians and usurp Arab lands. The pro-Zionists in the U.N. and the pro-Zionist countries in the Quartet are playing an insidiously deceitful game to steal the whole of Palestine from the Arabs. Zionist Israel will never be compelled to make peace by the Quartet because the Quartet is clearly bias towards Israel. U.S. Foreign Policy is pro-Israel despite the fact that Zionism in and of itself is an ideology based upon devilish racialism. It is unfair that the Arabs of Palestine were forced to pay for the crimes of the Nazis; why could not a part of Germany been annexed for a Jewish state after World War II? Ironically it would seem that the Ashkenazi (European) Jews in Israel would, because of their experiences during the second world war, be especially sensitive to the human rights abuses and oppression perpetrated upon the Palestinians by the Zionist Israeli government. The wily Zionists have no intentions of ever treating the Palestinians with justice and equity. But, nevertheless Zionist Israel will be destroyed, but not by a fearless Muslim army marching to liberate Jerusalem. No, Israel will choke on its own phlegm. Israel has invited its demise by incurring the wrath of The Most High God by being a secular state that disobeys The Law and dishonors the Sabbath. Because of these and other sins she will be brought to ruin again by the Hand of Providence. Zionism is racism.

Apr 24, 2012 9:13am EDT  --  Report as abuse
StevenFeldman wrote:
As per the San Remo Resolution adopted by the League of Nations in 1922 and enshrined irrevocably in the United Nations Charter of 1945, Jewish settlements anywhere west of the Jordan River in Mandatory Palestine are entirely LEGAL.

No amount of journalistic chicanery will alter that fact.

Apr 24, 2012 10:24am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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