US criticizes Israel over settlement committee

Netanyahu agrees to committee to examine the legal status of settler homes on private Palestinian land; US: Move hinders our peace efforts.

October 13, 2011 10:03
2 minute read.
Boy walks past homes in W. Bank outpost of Migron

Boy walks past homes in W. Bank outpost of Migron 311. (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)

The United States said Wednesday that it opposed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's plan to examine the legality of settler homes on privately owned Palestinian land.

"We oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts, which is unhelpful to our peace efforts and would contradict Israeli commitments and obligations," a statement from the US State Department said.

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The US said it did not recognize the "legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity."

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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.

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.

Right-wing politicians 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 theft.”

Minister of Culture and Sports Limor Livnat, who lobbied for the committee at Sunday’s Likud ministerial meeting, said, “This is a brave and important decision.”

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 activity.

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 legalized.

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.

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