migron - Moti Milrod - October 12 2011
Illegal homes being demolished at the Migron outpost in September. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formally announced yesterday the launch of a judicial task force to explore ways to retroactively legalize unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank that were built on private Palestinian land.

Any recommendations made by the new panel would probably necessitate new legislation, since multiple rulings by the High Court of Justice and state attorneys general have rejected all claims of legitimacy for settlements located on private Palestinian land.

Settlers, however, have claimed that there are solutions: In some cases, the land's ownership can be challenged; in others, the owner could be compensated generously; and in others still, the owners could be declared absentees, enabling their land to be used, as is the case vis-a-vis land inside Israel.

The directive ordering Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to create the task force followed pressure from settlers and others on the right in response to the state's decision to demolish several such outposts.

In a statement yesterday the Yesha Council of settlements welcomed Netanyahu's announcement of a task force that would "resolve the issue of the outposts. The council hopes the task force will act to rectify past injustices and prevent future outrages such as the razing of the homes of thousands of children, mothers and fathers in the immediate future," the main organization representing West Bank settlers said.

The general secretary of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, said yesterday that the new body constituted a shot in the arm to the so-called price tag actions: "The settlers' terror and violence work; instead of evacuating houses constructed illegally on stolen land, Netanyahu is constructing a task force that serves the settlers and is a show of no-confidence in the attorney general. Peace Now will continue its struggle against the government's efforts to defend illegal building in the occupied territories," Oppenheimer said.

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud ) praised the measure: "The prime minister understood that it's immoral to uproot people from their homes. It's important that we continue to promote Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, based on the understanding that this is our land," she said.