PM looks to convert three outposts to settlements
JP: In a move likely to be condemned by the international community, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday said that his government planned to transform three West Bank Jewish outposts – Bruchin, Rehalim and Sansana – into new settlements.
All three communities were created on state land over a decade ago, Rehalim in 1991, Sansana in 1997 and Bruchin in 1999, but were never authorized as settlements by the government.
The government last authorized a settlement, Negahot, in 1999.
No such authorizations have been granted since then because the international community believes that such an act violates Israel’s pledge not to create new settlements.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu also agreed to break a policy set by his government to remove unauthorized homes on land belonging to private Palestinian land.
In a statement released to the media Wednesday evening, he said he would not evacuate five apartment buildings in the Ulpana outpost, situated on land that has been so classified by the state. It is located on land on the outskirts of the Beit El settlements, and is now likely to become an authorized neighborhood of that community.
“The principle that has guided me is to strengthen Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said.
He spoke of his intention to authorize the four outposts, including Ulpana, on the same day that security forces forcibly removed 15 families from an apartment building in Hebron.
“Today, I instructed that the status of three communities – Bruchin, Sansana and Rehalim – be provided for,” he said.
“I also asked Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to see to it that the Ulpana hill in Beit El not be evacuated,” he said.
Although his government has authorized a number of outposts, by making them neighborhoods of existing settlements, this is the first time that he has so publicly stated his intention to legalize Jewish homes in the West Bank by creating a new settlement.
In his famous policy speech at Bar-Ilan in the summer of 2009, Netanyahu reiterated the policy of the governments of former prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon when he said, “We have no intention to build new settlements or set aside land for new settlements.”
It is this pledge to the international community that has kept the past governments from authorizing many of the more than 100 West Bank outposts constructed between 1991 and 2004.
Peace Now, which opposes all settlement construction, immediately attacked the move.
“Netanyahu is trying to satisfy the settlers and to give them a compensation prize for the evacuation of Hebron and the pending evacuation of Migron,” Peace Now executive director Yariv Oppenheimer said.
The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a query by The Jerusalem Post on the matter.
However, an Israeli official rejected the notion that authorization of an outpost constituted the creation of a new settlement.
“They are already settlements, but they did not gain the necessary paperwork,” an Israeli official told the Post.
The idea, he said, was to create a legal and administrative framework to allow these communities to continue.
He said that Netanyahu had stated Wednesday that he wanted to strengthen Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria but that it must be done legally.
Settler leaders and right wing politicians who have long lobbied for the government to authorize outposts were wary of the prime minister’s statements Wednesday.
Netanyahu has been talking for months about legalizing Rehalim, Bruchin and Sansana but to date nothing has happened, said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
“Of course it is a positive step, but I want to see it materialize,” Dayan said.
He noted that the government had to approve such authorization.
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein noted that no time frame had been set for such a meeting.
The issue of the Ulpana is different, he said.
The state has promised the High Court of Justice that it would demolish 30 unauthorized homes there by the end of the month.
Edelstein said he believed that a solution would be found to prevent the evacuation of the homes.
At Netanyahu’s request, the attorney- general will examine the legal issue involved in authorizing Sansana, Bruchin and Rehalim prior to a cabinet vote on the matter, Weinstein’s office said.
The attorney-general requested for the National Security Council to examine all aspects of the issue, the spokesman said.
The spokesman noted that the issue of the Ulpana neighborhood is being considered by the High Court of Justice and that Weinstein has also been asked to give his opinion on the matter.