Monday, December 5, 2022

Netanyahu agrees to legalise West Bank settler outposts

Benjamin Netanyahu, currently tasked with forming a new Israeli government after his coalition won elections earlier this month, has pledged to legalise dozens of illegal settler outposts in the occupied West Bank.

It came after Netanyahu met with far-right, controversial politician Itamar Ben-Gvir.

The two met on Wednesday, during which they agreed to retroactively legalise the outposts within 60 days of the government being sworn in, according to Israeli media.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party said in a statement after a meeting with Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party that the two politicians made “significant advancements”.

However, even if a deal has been made, there is no guarantee it would pass the required number of votes in Israel’s parliament (Knesset) to be implemented.

Among the outposts to be legalised under the plan is Homesh, a controversial settlement that was evacuated in 2005, located between the Palestinian cities of Nablus and Jenin. It lies on Route 60 – the main north-south highway in the occupied West Bank, which is used by Palestinians and Jewish settlers.

All Israeli settlements, including outposts, are illegal under international law. Israel however considers only outposts as illegal under its own laws, claiming that they were built by individual settlers or settler groups, and not by the government.

Dozens of reports by monitoring and rights groups have shown that the Israeli government provides infrastructure, support and funding for settlers to build outposts. In addition, the Israeli government has over the past few years retroactively legalised many outposts and has passed legislation that makes it easier to do so.

Netanyahu, who was unseated after 12 years in power in 2021, was formally tasked on Sunday by Israeli President Isaac Herzog with forming a government.

His Likud party and ultra-nationalist allies including Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism alliance received a clear majority in elections that took place on November 1 for the 120-seat Knesset.

Palestinians in Nablus say the plans are highly worrying, particularly given the already tense reality on the ground since last year, with an increase in settler attacks.

Since last year, the northern West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin have emerged as hubs of armed resistance to decades-long Israeli occupation, with an evident increase in attacks on Israeli military bases, checkpoints, soldiers, and settlers. The attacks have also spread to Salfit, Hebron and Jerusalem over the past several weeks.

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