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Defense minister to keep deputy in dark on outpost legalization after leak

After recording emerges of Eli Ben Dahan boasting about ‘secret’ team to deal with issue, Avigdor Liberman issues ‘severe’ reprimand

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan at the scene of a stabbing attack outside IDF Headquarters in central Tel Aviv, on October 8, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan at the scene of a stabbing attack outside IDF Headquarters in central Tel Aviv, on October 8, 2015. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday reprimanded his deputy after a recording of Jewish Home MK Eli Ben Dahan bragging about the existence of a small ministry team seeking to legalize West Bank outposts was leaked to the press.

Following a Hadashot news report featuring the recording, Liberman summoned the deputy defense minister to his office for a conversation that was characterized as “severe.”

The defense minister also banned his deputy from any involvement in future dealings with the legalization of West Bank outposts, a Defense Ministry official confirmed to The Times of Israel.

In the recording publicized Tuesday, Ben Dahan can be heard saying, “Over the past six months, we’ve formed a team of 4-5 people at the Defense Ministry and we’ve begun to map out all the outposts — around 70 of them — that are unregulated.”

“Just this last Thursday, we sat for almost three hours and ranked the communities by category — how they can be authorized and through what measures.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on December 31, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Ben Dahan noted that some outposts would be easier to legalize into full-fledged settlements than others, giving the example of Asa’el, near Hebron, which he said had been built following a government decision, though its construction had not been properly regulated.

But while the Hadashot news report described the outpost team as “secret,” Liberman himself had disclosed its existence to reporters during a briefing in August. However, an official in the Justice Ministry then told The Times of Israel there was only a slim likelihood such a committee would succeed.

Controversial legislation passed in February 2016 allows the Israeli government to retroactively expropriate private Palestinian land where illegal outpost homes have been built, provided that the outposts were established “in good faith” or had government support and that the Palestinian owners receive financial compensation for the land.

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