Israel recognizes 3 illegal West Bank outposts, advances construction of 5,295 homes

Move comes one day after government announced largest appropriation of land since Oslo Accords; five illegal outposts were recognized last week

View of houses in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, south of Jerusalem. October 25, 2021. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
View of houses in the West Bank settlement of Efrat, south of Jerusalem. October 25, 2021. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Israel has recognized three illegal outposts in the West Bank in a move to further cement control over the disputed territory, an anti-settlement monitoring group reported Thursday.

In a report, Peace Now said the Higher Planning Council recognized outposts in Mahane Gadi, Givat Han and Kedem Arava on the edge of existing settlements, the report said. It followed a cabinet vote last week to legalize five other West Bank outposts.

While the international community considers all settlements illegal, Israel differentiates between settlement homes built and permitted by the Defense Ministry on land owned by the state, and illegal outposts built without the necessary permits, often on private Palestinian land. In recent years, though, the government has increasingly sought to regulate the wildcat outposts, rather than demolish them.

Peace Now said the government’s Higher Planning Council also approved or advanced plans for 5,295 homes in dozens of settlements across the West Bank.

Furthermore, the report noted that the legal adviser to the planning council was a civilian, a first since the founding of the Settlements Administration, an authority established by the current government and put under the control of far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in his capacity as a minister in the Defense Ministry.

Members of the Settlements Administration were present at the meeting when the new homes were approved, the report added.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich leads a Religious Zionism faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“[Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] and Smotrich’s agenda became evident through the decisions of the Planning Council: approval for thousands of housing units, the establishment of three new settlements, and strategic appointments of Smotrich’s allies in key roles instead of military personnel underscore the annexation occurring in the West Bank,” Peace Now said in a statement. “Our government continues to change the rules of the game in the occupied West Bank, leading to irreversible harm.”

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the military body that oversees the planning council, referred questions to Netanyahu’s office, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel announced on Wednesday its largest appropriation of land in the West Bank since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, designating 2,965 acres of land as state land.

Declaring tracts of the West Bank as state land means they can be slated for future residential development, among other possible uses, but cannot be used to expropriate private Palestinian land that is formally registered in the land registry.

The West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Efraim on the hills of the Jordan Valley, February 18, 2020. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

The turbocharged settlement drive could further stoke tensions in the West Bank, which has seen a surge in violence since the Gaza war began on October 7, when Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping 251.

Since October 7, troops have arrested some 4,200 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,750 affiliated with Hamas.

According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, more than 540 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time. The IDF says the vast majority of them were gunmen killed during raids or terrorists carrying out attacks.

During the same period, 22 Israelis, including security personnel, have been killed in terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank. Another five members of the security forces were killed in clashes with terror operatives in the West Bank.

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