Netanyahu: I hope to resolve West Bank settler outpost issues within days

At issue is whether Israel would make a major policy declaration in favor of expanding its settlement footprint in Area C of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted on Sunday that he could ask the government to issue a declaration of intent to legalize 46 West Bank settler outposts within days.
At issue is whether Israel would make a major policy declaration in favor of expanding its settlement footprint in Area C of the West Bank on the eve of US President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday of this week.
"We are currently in discussions with the Defense Ministry about the young settlements [outposts]," Netanyahu said at the government meeting, typically held weekly. It has not met in close to a month due to sharp disagreements between Netanyahu and Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Among them is Gantz's objection to a governmental declaration of intent to legalize the outposts. Netanyahu spoke of the Defense Ministry, but not Gantz, when he described talks on the outposts.
"I very much hope we can reach an agreement in the next day or two. The [matter] must be resolved," Netanyahu said. "There is no justification for this and it causes unnecessary suffering.”
"This is a humanitarian issue," said Netanyahu, adding that these people "do not have [regulated] electricity and water."
But he did explicitly mention the declaration of intent, which has already been written out by Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and needs only to be placed on the agenda.
The declaration would not immediately authorize the 46 fledgling settlement communities, some of which have existed for more than two decades. But it would allow for them to be treated in a de facto manner as if they have been legalized.
At present, it is difficult to provide them with regulated utilities and security services because they are deemed to be illegal, rather than communities in the process of authorization.
In some cases, authorization would include expanding the boundary lines of existing settlements, as the outposts would be legalized as new neighborhoods of those communities.
In other instances, they would be legalized as entirely new settlements.
Both moves would expand the area of settlement building in Area C the West Bank, beyond the 30% laid out in US President Donald Trump's map of a two-state solution, by which Israel can eventually annex the West Bank settlements.
In lieu of annexation, right-wing politicians and the settlement movement had seized on the issue of the issue of the outposts as a critical one in this juncture, particularly in advance of Biden's inauguration. It is expected that Biden would vehemently oppose such a move.
Settlers have mounted a protest encampment in front of the Prime Minister's Office. They have held rallies both there and in front of Gantz's home. The latest rally was on Sunday as the government met.
At the rally, Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shalom Neeman, who has been one of the consistent settler leaders manning the outpost encampment, lashed out at Gantz.
“After everything is ready, and everyone is ready, after the prime minister drafted a government resolution calling for the official authorization of the ‘young settlements’ and after the attorney-general approved it, there is just one person who isn’t ready to put the issue on the agenda, and that is Benny Gantz. Benny Gantz," Neeman said. “We thought that you were everyone’s defense minister."
He warned Gantz that his political days were numbered.
"You should be certain that the few votes you thought you would be receiving from the Center-Left camp will not be for you, because even those individuals have basic principles of equality and justice, which you are withholding from their children as well,” Neeman said. "We will continue on our eternal path, and your period in power will be just a fleeting leaderless episode in the history of the Zionist movement.”
Some 10 settlers embarked on a hunger strike in the last two weeks, all but two of them ended it late last week after they were ordered into isolation for fear they had contracted COVID-19.
Last week, Gilad Farm resident and well-known settlement activist Itai Zar fainted while on a hunger strike. He was taken to the hospital where it was discovered that he had COVID-19.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who already had COVID-19, is one of the few who continued with the hunger strike.
President Reuven Rivlin called Dagan on Sunday and asked him to halt his hunger strike.