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Israel paves way for expropriating illegal West Bank outpost

Israeli forces intervene in a protest against building of Jewish settlements and separation wall at Kafr Qaddum village of Nablus, West Bank on November 30, 2018. ( Nedal Eshtayah - Anadolu Agency )

Israel today issued a legal opinion which will pave the way for permanently expropriating an illegal West Bank outpost.

The Counselling and Legislation Department of Israel’s Justice Ministry – with the backing of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked – today issued a legal opinion which will allow an Israeli-only road to be built to the illegal outpost of Haresha, situated near Ein Qiniya north of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

The recommendation means that the outpost will now be “legalised” by Israel, giving it official government recognition, allowing the state to undertake construction and enabling Israeli law to be extended to those living there. Although Israel differentiates between settlements – which have official government recognition – and outposts, both are deemed illegal under international law which prohibits the transfer of civilian populations into occupied territory.

According to Arutz Sheva, it will now be “possible to submit a zoning plan for the [illegal outpost] using the ‘cut & cover’ solution – paving a road over which concrete will be placed”. The legal opinion also “enables the permanent expropriation of the land in the future,” the Israeli daily added.

Furthermore, Israel’s Justice Ministry issued the recommendation in the full knowledge that sections of the road would require the expropriation of private Palestinian land. Arutz Sheva cited the legal document as saying:

Until now, the state has not been able to regulate the construction in the area, in light of the fact that the road leading to Haresha is not regulated, and it passes through privately owned land. The section of the road that passes through private land, and which is at the centre of this legal opinion, stands at 121 metres.

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Commenting on the approval, Shaked said: “From the beginning of my current term [as Minister of Justice] I have set a goal of normalising the lives of [illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank] and normalising as many communities as possible. We have gone from a discourse of eviction to a discourse of normalisation.”

Israel has pursued a consistent policy of settlement expansion. Last week Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in favour of settlers after a 22-year legal battle by Palestinians against efforts to annex their land. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) had claimed ownership of 522 dunams (130 acres) of land as part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, south of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank. Despite providing ownership documents for the land, the court ruled against the Palestinians affected.

Israel also regularly provides funding and support for settlements, despite their illegality. In October a Knesset report revealed that illegal settlements receive 144 million shekels ($39 million) in government funding for regional councils, amounting to 25 per cent of Israel’s regional council budget.

Just two days earlier, an investigation into the World Zionist Organisation (WZO) by Israeli daily Haaretz exposed that the group has given dozens of loans to aid the establishment of illegal Israeli settlements. Haaretz uncovered dozens of documents for mortgages pertaining to 26 outposts across the West Bank, including Amona, which Israel evacuated in 2017 in a rare move after deeming it had been established illegally on Palestinian land. The illegal settlers were then relocated to Amichai, north of Ramallah.

According to Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, as of the end of 2015 there were 127 government-sanctioned Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, without including East Jerusalem and central Hebron. In addition, there were a further 100 illegal outposts. According to a June 2018 report by the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS), there are 132 illegal settlements in the West Bank, with a further 11 in East Jerusalem.

READ: Knesset speaker tells settlers Israel must annex the West Bank

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