The cabinet is expected to recognize this coming Sunday the unauthorized West Bank outposts of Bruchin, Rehalim and Sansana as three new settlements, political sources said today.
It would be the first time in 13 years that the cabinet has approved any new West Bank settlement.
The international community believes that such an act violates Israel’s pledge to refrain from establishing new settlements. Israeli officials, however, have said that this pledge does not include already existing unauthorized communities.
All three outposts were created on state land – Rehalim in 1991, Sansana in 1997 and Bruchin in 1999. The government never authorized them as legal settlements by the government.
According to political sources, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Likud Ministerial Committee on Tuesday of the pending vote on the three outposts.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not confirm or deny the information.
The bulk of what was described as a “stormy” Likud ministerial meeting Tuesday, however, dealt with the problem of outposts constructed on land the state classified as belonging to private Palestinians.
The state has promised the High Court of Justice that by the end of the month it would demolish 30 apartment units in the Ulpana outpost, which is located on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement.
Before Passover, Netanyahu said he would ask Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to find a legal solution to prevent the outpost’s demolition, given that it was built on land the state classified as belonging to Palestinians.
Weinstein is expected to present information about possible legal options for the Ulpana outpost to a forum of eight ministers in the near future, according to political sources.
A smaller forum of ministers, including Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin (Likud) and Vice Premier Moshe Ya’alon (Likud), is due to meet Wednesday to discuss the matter.
The Knesset will also hold a special session on Wednesday on the larger issue of outposts on private Palestinian property, but no action will be taken.
Ministers are concerned about the absence of a solution so close to the demolition deadline for Ulpana.
They have called on Netanyahu to support legislation that retroactively legalizes outposts on private Palestinian property, such as Ulpana, under certain circumstances.
Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar first raised the issue of Ulpana and called for the matter to be solved through legislation. Ministers Silvan Shalom, Yuli Edelstein, Yisrael Katz and Yuval Steinitz also voiced their support.
To date Netanyahu has rejected such legislative attempts, and has preferred to seek other routes to resolve the issue. According to sources at Tuesday’s ministerial meeting, Netanyahu said he would not allow for the community to be destroyed.
Shalom said that to prevent such an evacuation, “We need to back [legislation] because it is fair and there is no other solution.” He told Netanyahu, “Stop saying ‘no.’ Start saying ‘yes.’ We need to lead the banner of settlement and not get dragged behind Israel Beiteinu, Shas and other parties,” he said.
According to sources in the meeting, Begin and Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said they did not believe that the matter should be legislated, adding that the legal issues involved were prohibitive.
Edelstein said “We are all in favor of finding a solution without legislation as quickly as possible but if there is no other solution we have to legislate because destruction is out of the question.”
In separate developments, the ministers urged Netanyahu to intervene on the Hebron settler house, called Beit Hamachpela, which the IDF evacuated earlier this month because it lacked the proper permits. The cabinet is researching the legal issues behind the property transaction of the three-story structure to Jewish settlers from Hebron and nearby Kiryat Arba.
It was the first cabinet meeting since the evacuation of Beit Hamachpela.
Some of the ministers called on Netanyahu to relieve Defense Minister Ehud Barak of the power to solely decide on the evacuation of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria and to transfer that power instead to the hands of a ministerial committee.
Katz accused Barak of evacuating the Hebron home for political reasons.
Netanyahu told them that it was not right to blame Barak and that in this matter, the Justice Ministry was the determining factor.