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THE OFRA SETTLEMENT is seen from the Amona outpost in the West Bank..(Photo by: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS)
Netanyahu delays legalization of 70 settler outposts, politicians charge
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon had promised the international community he would remove the outposts, but Netanyahu has worked to authorize them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed work on the authorization of 70 West Bank settler outposts for over a year, the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee charged on Monday, and demanded that he speed up the process.

The committee called on the government to create a list of outposts it plans to authorize as new neighborhood of existing settlements.

The committee also called for a diplomatic arrangement in the next few months that would allow the authorization of those 20 of those outposts.

The Defense Ministry’s secretary of settlement affairs, Kobi Eliraz, said that these 20 are problematic and a “government decision is needed” for action to be taken, he said.

This is a diplomatic decision that has to be “co-ordinated overseas,” Eliraz said.

His words hinted that the best way to do so was to authorize them as new settlements and that such a step would need US approval.

In May 2017, the Security Cabinet allocated NIS 10 million for the creation of a special team headed by veteran settler leader Pinhas Wallerstein to plan for the legalization of the 70 outposts.

But the Prime Minister’s Office submitted a request for half of the funds to hire staff member only last week – some 14 months later – making it impossible for the team to operate.

Yesha Council head Hananel Dorani said, “We’re in a situation where we have a team leader without a staff. Essentially he sits alone at a table. It’s as if the decisions by the Civil Administration [of Judea and Samaria] and Prime Minister’s Office’s decisions were never made. He is working alone and the result is that nothing happens.”

“There are those who act as if there is a state within a state. Judea and Samaria’s legal advisor, acts according to his own policies, which are contrary to the government’s.

“To my sorrow, at this which is contrary to government policy,” Dorani said.

“At this point the only thing that can be done is to put out fire and if no change is made in the [advisor’s behavior], the fires will continue to burn.”

Left-wing politicians warned the Internal Affairs Committee against legalizing the outposts.

The “occupation enterprise was trampling on almost any possibility of for a future agreement [with the Palestinians],” MK Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) warned.

Such a move is illegal under international law and serves only a small minority of people, Bahloul added.

Meretz MK Michal Rozin said the best way for settlers to legalize their homes was to “make aliyah” to sovereign Israel.

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon had promised the international community he would remove the outposts, but Netanyahu has worked to authorize them.

South Hebron Hills Regional Council head Yochai Damri warned that action must be taken before it’s too late. Politicians should take advantage of the combination of a right-wing government and a favorable diplomatic climate.

“We are still crying over the lost opportunities of the past,” Damri said.

Some things are already lost, such as Areas A and B of the West Bank, which have already become part of a de-facto Palestinian state with an anthem, a flag and government minsters, Damri said.

But Area C is still under Israeli rule, Damri added.
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