Right wing politicians renewed their push to legalize all West Bank outposts on state land in the aftermath of Sunday night’s terror attack that injured seven outside of the Ofra settlement.
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich plans to submit a bill to the Ministerial Legislative Committee for debate this Sunday that sets a two-year timetable to authorize those illegal fledgling communities as either new settlements or neighborhoods of existing ones.
He spoke of the bill during a meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting that had been scheduled prior to the attack.
But right-wing politicians at the meeting, including settler leaders, linked the attack to their legislative drive to legalize settler homes.
“Settlements and security are strongly linked,” Yesha Council head Hananel Durani told the FADC adding, “the serious attack in Ofra reinforces the debate today.”
“Regulating and strengthening the settlements in appropriate Zionist response to the [Palestinian] terror that is attempting to weaken the settlements,” Durani said.
There are dozen so places in Judea and Samaria that can be legalized already today, he said.
Binyamin Regional Council head Israel Ganz said, “we shouldn’t need terror attack to authorize [settler homes]. This Knesset session is almost over but there has been no change to the situation on the ground [in Judea and Samaria], he said. There is good will. There is legislation, but no change. Now is the time to spring to achieve results in this Knesset session,” he said.
Politicians in the meeting spoke of their frustration over the lack of progress toward the implementation of a May 2017 security cabinet decision, which created a committee to regulate the outposts.
Some 15 out of an original list of 100 outposts have already been legalized and another 35 are in the process of legalization.
The committee, headed by veteran settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein, has counted 70 outposts that fall under his purview, which includes fledgling communities on state land and private Palestinian land. Wallerstein did not attend the meeting.
He has said that some 20 of those would be difficult to legalize without a government decision.
Only a fraction of the outposts are totally on private Palestinian property. Others are partially built on state land and private Palestinian property.
Deputy Cabinet Secretary Ronen Peretz took exception to the political attack against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and argued that he was not foot dragging, promising that a progress update on the committee’s work would be published this month.
The outposts have already been mapped out, Peretz said.
“We don’t need terror attacks to promote the settlements, we already do a lot for them,” he explained.
Smotrich, who co-chairs the Knesset Land of Israel caucus, was not assuaged by his words and announced his intention to put forward the bill, which he submitted in July.
It sets a two-year deadline from the law’s passage for legalizing the outposts. The list of outposts is blank in the current draft of the bill.
Smotrich’s bill states that government offices and enforcement agencies should treat the communities that are added to the list as if they were already legalized, even though they were built without property authorizations.
During the two years before their legalization, the outposts would treated like normal neighborhoods: the settlement that the outpost will become a part of will have to provide it with municipal services and water, the government would budget for services, infrastructure and public structures, and the electric company will have to provide them with electricity, etc.
The bill’s explanatory portion points out that the government decided to legalize outposts built in the past 20 years, but it has not been implemented, over a year and a half later. The new bill is meant “to prevent unnecessary harm to the residents of the neighborhoods and settlements that are meant to be legalized,” it states.
Enforcement action against the outposts would be suspended and residents would also be eligible for bank mortgages so they could purchase, build, extend or rebuild their homes.
It is presumed that there are some 3,000 structures in the outposts.
Smotrich considers his bill to be the companion to the 2017 Settlement Regulation Law that retroactively legalized close to 4,000 settler homes on private Palestinian property, of which some 800 are in the outposts.
But that legislation only allows for the outpost homes to be legalized and does not in and of itself legalize the outpost.
The High Court of Justice is still adjudicating that law, which has yet to be put into practice.
Smotrich has called his proposal “regulation bill 2,” meaning that it is a continuation of the 2017 law.
Separately politicians in the meeting called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to fast track the process by which over 400 unauthorized homes in the Ofra settlement on private Palestinian property could be legalized independently of that law.
They said that a legal opinion by the defense ministry put forward this summer could allow for their authorization, but that the process needs Netanyahu’s approval in order to advance.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted: “The legal opinion is already prepared. In response to the [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s] ‘price for terrorism’” - meaning the PA’s payments to terrorists in Israeli prisons - “we are setting our own prices: Every terrorist attack will strengthen settlements instead of weakening them, and every potential terrorist will know in advance that his name will be on the strengthening of settlements.”
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