Netanyahu Launches Effort to Legalize Outposts Built on Private Palestinian Land

Premier's statement comes following Haaretz report, according to which Netanyahu's move was a result of significant pressure from settlers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Tuesday the launch of a task force geared at legalizing West Bank outposts built on private Palestinian land.

The premier's announcement came after, earlier Tuesday, Haaretz reported that Netanyahu instructed Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to set up a task force to explore ways to legalize houses in the settlements that were built on private Palestinian land.

Settlement building - Motti Milrod
Motti Milrod

The instruction was issued under heavy pressure from settlers and others on the right in response to the state's decision to demolish several outposts built on private Palestinian land over the next half year.

In February, Netanyahu and three other senior ministers - Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya'alon and Benny Begin - met with the attorney general and other senior legal officials.

The product of that meeting was a decision to demolish all outposts built on private Palestinian land, but to try to retroactively legalize any illegal construction in settlements or outposts that took place on state land.

The state subsequently submitted affidavits to the High Court of Justice detailing the timetable for the demolitions.

In a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office on Tuesday said that "Netanyahu decided to form a committee that would examine policies and operational methods concerning construction in the West Bank the status of which is still uncertain."

"The committee will form recommendations regarding issues such as those raised in the various appeals to the High Court of Justice," the statement said.

Referring to the reported plan to legalize West Bank outposts, earlier Tuesday, Meretz ML Zehava Gal-On said that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein "must make it clear to Netanyahu that the robbery and theft of private lands cannot be legalize since it constitutes a criminal offence."

"Netanyahu's entire move is meant to further establish Israeli authority over the [Palestinian] territories and deepen the occupation," Gal-On said.

Culture Minister Limor Livnat, one of those who pushed for the task force, told Arutz Sheva radio on Monday that the goal was to examine the issue "without fear of what leftist groups will say. As the government, we need to govern."

Another politician said that even if the task force produced no solutions, its work would take several months and could provide a pretext for postponing the demolitions.