Netanyahu Forms Panel to Okay West Bank Outposts, Despite Pledge to Bring to Cabinet Vote

Naming of Ministerial committee, to be comprised of Netanyahu, Barak, Vice PM Ya'alon and Benny Begin, effectively postpones further the government's decision on Bruchin, Sansana and Rechalim.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that he would submit the issue of sanctioning three West Bank outposts to a specially formed panel, despite the fact that he was expected to bring their recognition to the approval of the cabinet.

Netanyahu's comments came after, earlier this month, the premier informed his ministers that, following the recommendation of Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he would submit to the cabinet "the necessary permits for providing for the status of the communities of Bruchin, Sansana and Rechalim."

The outpost of Bruchin, July 26, 2010.Credit: Moti Milrod

In addition, during last week's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that he would bring the settlements' municipal construction plan to the government's approval.

However, instead of bringing the outposts to the cabinet's approval, Netanyahu speaking in a the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, said that he intended to regulate the status of Bruchin, Sansana and Rechalim through a panel that would work to recognize settlements built on state land or through aid of any kind from the state.

The panel will be comprised of Netanyahu himself, Barak, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and Minister Benny Begin, and will be authorized to reach a decision on the matter.

Netanyahu's announcement came amid a tense debate in the government over the future of the Ulpana neighborhood of the West Bank settlement of Beit El, which is slated for demolition in May.

The Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank settlement of Beit El.Credit: Emil Salman

Speaking to cabinet ministers on Sunday, Netanyahu asked to lower the media profile of a debate on the future of Ulpana.

However, immediately following the meeting, chief minister and Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom released a statement on his Facebook page, saying that "the settlement flag is the central flag of the Likud movement, and the evacuation of settlements is simply out of the question."

"Solutions should be found like compensating land owners, if that is required, or legislation. We will continue to act in a manner which leaves the neighborhood in place and the settlers in their homes," the statement added.

Speaking earlier Sunday to Army Radio, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon criticized what he said was Barak's politically motivated move to evacuate Ulpana, saying that "those who hide behind the rule of law harm the rule of law."

"I hope the prime minister will find an adequate solution that won't impair the rule of law and the authority of the Israeli government," Ya'alon said.