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Israel ‘legalises’ colonial outposts, causing further irritation in Washington

February 13, 2023 at 3:30 pm

Israeli forces take security measurements after they killed two Palestinians and seriously injured another in the northern part of West Bank, Israel [Nedal Eshtayah – Anadolu Agency]

Israel has “legalised” nine colonial outposts in the occupied West Bank, turning them into official settlements. The decision, which is said to be the first legalisation of such outposts by the Israeli government since 2012, has caused further irritation in Washington.

According to Axios, in addition to the legalisation of the nine outposts, the Israeli government has decided to connect dozens of other illegal outposts to state infrastructure like water and electricity, and approve the planning and building of thousands of new housing units in the settlements.

The newly-legalised settlements:

  • Avigail
  • Asael
  • Shacharit
  • Givat Arnon
  • Givat Harel and Givat Haro’eh
  • Malachei Hashalom
  • Mitzpe Yehuda
  • Beit Hogla
  • Sde Boaz

According to Haaretz, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Minister in the Defence Ministry Bezalel Smotrich wanted to legalise as many as 77 colonial outposts. Their request was refused, it seems, because they were deemed “neither feasible nor acceptable.” Nevertheless, one cabinet member stressed that the “the decision to legalise nine outposts is a major accomplishment for the government.”

The legalisation of the colonial outposts is part of a major offensive in occupied Jerusalem ordered by the far-right extremist Ben-Gvir in the wake of attacks on Israelis in the city. A further measure is expected to be introduced later this week which will allow Israel to strip Palestinians of their Israeli citizenship if they are charged with “terrorism”.

The US was notified of the outpost decision in advance. Israeli and US officials are reported as saying that the administration of President Joe Biden expressed strong opposition to the plan in the days leading up to the cabinet decision. Washington made it clear that it would condemn it publicly once it was approved.

READ: Report: US warns Israel against handing the West Bank to Bezalel Smotrich

Although successive US administrations have turned a blind eye to Israel’s illegal settlement construction and expansion, the matter of outpost legalisation is said to be one issue against which the Biden administration has said explicitly that it will push back. It said that it will also refuse to accept any unilateral actions which Washington believes harm the two-state solution and the status quo arrangements at the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

It’s not obvious why the US makes a distinction between illegal, Jew-only settlements that have a total population of 700,000, and “illegal outposts”. Although both are a clear violation of international law, settlements for Jews only are legal under Israeli law, while “illegal outposts” are also illegal under Israeli law. Israel differentiates between settlement homes built and permitted by the Defence Ministry on land claimed to be owned by the state, and illegal outposts built without necessary permits, often on private Palestinian land.

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