Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave a nod in the direction of right-wing
politicians, including many members of his party, when he agreed on Tuesday to
create a committee to examine the legal status of settler homes on privately
owned Palestinian land.
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News that he might back away from his strict
policy that all such structures be removed was bitterly attacked by the Left and
hailed as a victory by the Right. The latter has long lobbied hard for the
government to move toward legalizing the outposts.
are concerned about a number of pending demolitions of unauthorized settler
homes, including at the Migron and Givat Assaf outposts.
B’Tselem – The
Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories said
such a move would make the government an “accomplice in land
Minister of Culture and Sports Limor Livnat, who lobbied for the
committee at Sunday’s Likud ministerial meeting, said, “This is a brave and
The move comes during an intense effort by the
Middle East Quartet to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. The
Palestinians has said they will not talk with Israel until it ceases settlement
Netanyahu has been vague with respect to the new committee’s
mandate. In its official statements to the media, his office did not mention the
issue of private Palestinian land.
Instead it said the prime minister
“decided to create a committee that would examine the policy tools and
principles for action in Judea and Samaria. The committee will formulate
recommendations for action on the issues, which among other things have been
brought up in different petitions to the High Court of Justice.”
sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said that the committee was expected to
look at the status of privately owned Palestinian land.
The source said
the government had not changed its policy with respect to settler homes on
private Palestinian property, but rather it wanted to make absolutely sure that
the property had been properly classified.
The international community
has long expected Israel to remove the 100 West Bank outposts, many of which
were started by settlers who believed that they could eventually be
Under the 2002 road map, the government is expected to remove
some 24 outposts constructed after former prime minister Ariel Sharon took
office in March 2001.
Then prime minister Ehud Olmert spoke of removing
the outposts. But since Netanyahu took office in 2009, there has been a shift in
government policy. In repeated statements to the High Court the state has spoken
of its intention to legalize those outposts built on state land.
government has insisted that those on private Palestinian property must be
Settlers and right-wing politicians have long argued that the
outposts can be and should be legalized, despite Israel’s commitment to the
international community that it would not create new settlements.
official speculated that this pledge might not include the outposts.
Prime Minister’s Office did not provide details regarding the committee,
including how many members it would have and when their work would be
It would not speculate as to whether the Prime Minister’s
Office would ask the court to delay any further demolitions pending the
completion of the committee’s work.
But MK Danny Danon (Likud) said
politicians were now pressing Netanyahu to order a delay.
that the committee would look at the status of homes and communities in Judea
This affects hundreds of families who live in an atmosphere
of uncertainty, though in many cases their communities were built with initial
support from the government and with funds from the Ministry of Construction and
Housing, she said.
Livnat has estimated that 160 settler homes are in
danger of being destroyed in the next year, with some in the coming
Razing homes “is not a worthy solution,” she said.
added that many of the homes were located on land that could be
In other cases, where the land belongs to Palestinians,
compensation could be offered so that the homes do not have to be destroyed, she
Peace Now said that around 70 outposts were located partially or
fully on private Palestinian land.
“It is very hard to imagine a legal
way to make a land grab legal, but even if this ‘task force’ doesn’t come up
with legal solutions, the government will probably be able to use it to buy more
time from the courts,” Peace Now said.
Earlier Tuesday, 38
parliamentarians issued an appeal to not demolish settler homes.
than half of Netanyahu’s Likud party faction, 15 out of its 27 parliamentarians,
signed the letter, penned by the Knesset’s Lobby for the Land of
Other signatories included eight MKs from the Shas party, six MKs
from Israel Beiteinu, the four National Union members and the three members of
Habayit Hayehudi. One MK from Kadima and one from United Torah Judaism also
signed the letter.
Included in the list are five ministers, Eli Yishai of
Shas, Daniel Hershkowitz of Habayit Hayehudi, Uzi Landau of Israel Beiteinu, and
two from Likud: Yuli Edelstein and Yossi Peled.