Givat Assaf sign 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli efforts to legalize West Bank outposts undermine the peace process, the
US Embassy in Tel Aviv warned Wednesday in advance of US Secretary of State John
Kerry’s arrival Thursday for a two-day visit to help rekindle talks with the
“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli
settlement activity and oppose any efforts to legalize settlement outposts,
which would undermine peace efforts and would contradict Israeli commitments and
obligations,” US embassy spokesman Geoff Anisman told The Jerusalem Post on
He added that the US position on these points has been clear
and has not changed.
Anisman spoke in the aftermath of a High Court of
Justice hearing on a Peace Now petition demanding that the state enforce the law
and demolish six unauthorized West Bank outposts.
The state, however, has
told the court verbally and in writing that it intends to legalize four of them:
Givat Assaf, Ma’aleh Rehavam, Givat Ha- Roeh and Mitzpe Lachish.
embassy representative was at the hearing, but refused to speak to the
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel immediately condemned his
presence there, charging that it was a blatant US attempt to interfere with
Israeli internal legal procedures.
But Anisman said that US
representatives often went to court proceedings and Knesset sessions as part of
their routine work to monitor Israeli activity. This is similar to how US
embassies in other countries operate, he said.
These four unauthorized
Jewish communities are part of a larger list of 24 outposts built after March
2001, which former prime minister Ariel Sharon promised the US he would remove.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert repeated that pledge to the US as did Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shortly after he took office in March
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now has said that legalization of these four
outposts also contradicts past Israeli promises not to create new settlements or
expand existing ones.
The Palestinians have insisted that they will not
hold direct negotiations
with Israel until it halts all West Bank settlement
activity and Jewish building in east Jerusalem.
Israel has refused to
cede to that request and has insisted instead that talks be held without
But since Netanyahu took office in 2009, internally within
Israel the conversation about the outposts, has shifted from the diplomatic
arena to the internal legal one. The central question when dealing with the
outposts has not been its impact on the negotiations, but rather the question of
whether they are located on private Palestinian property or state
Under Netanyahu, the state’s general policy is to seek
authorization of settler homes on state land and to evacuate those on private
Lawyers for the outposts who spoke before the court
on Wednesday addressed the property issues involved in this distinction and
argued that the case should be dismissed.
They explained that each
outpost has specific issues that should be addressed individually.
Now attorney Michael Sfard, however, argued that his organization’s petition was
about law enforcement and had nothing to do with property rights, or the status
of the land.
Injunctions have been issued against these outposts since
2004, but were never enforced, he said.
The state speaks of wanting to
authorize these outposts, but has come to the court without the necessary
government decision to do so, Sfard said.
The state attorney said in
response that Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s statement that the government
wants to authorize them should suffice for the court.
state told the court on Tuesday night that within three months, it intends
within three months to demolish unauthorized homes on private Palestinian
property in the outposts of Mitzpe Yitzhar and Ma’aleh Rehavam.
has already removed homes on private Palestinian property on the Ramat Gilad
outpost, which is part of the six-outpost petition, but has yet to make a final
statement about the status of sections of the outpost on state land.