Israel created a new committee to advance the legalization of West Bank outposts and illegal settler homes, prior to the arrival of US President Donald Trump.
Outposts have been a source of contention between Israel and past US Administrations, which had asked Israel to remove the fledgling communities, some 100 of which dot the West Bank hilltops.
In December the Knesset passed the Settlement Regulation Law, which retroactively legalized some 4,000 unauthorized settler homes — including in West Bank outposts — located on private Palestinian property. The High Court of Justice is now adjudicating the legality of that legislation.
In the interim, the Security Cabinet on Sunday night created a committee to deal with the overall issue within three years. It will include officials from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Defense Ministry and the Civil Administration.
A plan of how the work will be carried out and who the committee members will be, will be submitted to the government within 21-days.
Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman will receive updates on the committee’s work every three months.
Trump is expected to ask Netanyahu to curb settlement activity, but Israel is likely to explain that the committee’s work doesn’t expand settlements, but retroactively legalizes already existing structures.
Separately the cabinet authorized a series of economic gestures to ease if for the Palestinians in the West Bank. Officials said that Trump had asked Israel to take a number of confidence building measures to support his initiative to restart Israeli-Palestinian talks.
This includes expanding the hours of the Allenby Bridge crossing as well as the Sha’ar Efraim checkpoint near Tulkarem. Plans will be advanced for a West Bank train, officials said.
An industrial zone will be built near the Tarkumiya Crossing. Authorizations will be given for Palestinian building and use of agriculture land in Area C of the West Bank, the officials said.
They noted that the authorizations did not indicate a change in the land’s statue and that it would still be administered by the Civil Administration. There were no security implications to any of the decisions, the official said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked opposed the plan to increase Palestinian building in Area C, arguing that effectively it meant that territory would not eventually be within Israel’s final borders.