World leaders blast legalization of three West Bank outposts

US expresses concern over measure, UN calls move provocation

A view of the Bruchin settlement. (photo credit: Ariel Schalit, File/AP)
A view of the Bruchin settlement. (photo credit: Ariel Schalit, File/AP)

Israel’s legalizing of three West Bank outposts drew harsh condemnations Tuesday from the United States and several other world bodies.

A decision by a ministerial committee Monday to give official sanction to the outposts of Bruchin, Sansana, and Rechelim was also slammed by the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations, Jordan, France and Denmark.

The move is considered the first time in about a dozen years that the government officially recognized outposts in the West Bank.

The United States expressed concern about Israel’s intentions by passing the outpost measure. State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that they are opposed to building in the settlements, and are seeking a clarification from the government.

“We do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity,” she said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the Israeli government’s decision, saying “designating outposts as settlements… sets a dangerous precedent for other outposts, which are illegal under both international and Israeli law.”

The Israeli government “risks sending the message that it is not serious about its stated commitment to the goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Hague added.

The UN Secretary General called the decision a “provocation,” and said all settlement activity runs contrary to Israel’s obligations under the peace Road Map, according to a media statement.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas said the announcement pushes things to a “dead end,” according to the Ma’an news agency. Palestinian official Saeb Erekat added that they will try to secure a UN Security Council condemnation of the decision.

“We call upon the Israeli government to immediately stop all unilateral acts,” said Palestinian Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh.

In a meeting with US Mideast Envoy David Hale, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh also denounced the move. Jordan “condemns Israeli settlement activities as well as its unilateral measures,” he said, according to AFP.

France and Denmark also criticized the government’s announcement.

France said it considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem illegal. The move sends a negative signal to the “advances of peace” in the region, it added.

Current EU president Denmark said the move represents a “fundamental threat to a two-state solution.” The Danish Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal called it a “great disappointment,” AFP reported.

Others fear that Israel will grant the other 100 unsanctioned outposts similar legal protection, according to media reports.

Meretz chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On responded to the decision saying that the Israeli government is leading to the establishment of a single, binational state.

However, Israel denied that it was embarking on a new, controversial policy, adding that the outposts were unique instances because they had received a degree of government approval when they were first created.

“These communities were founded in the 1990s based on the decisions of past governments,” said a statement issued by the panel, which was formed Sunday. Netanyahu, along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon, and minister without portfolio Benny Begin, served on the committee.

Bruchin has around 350 residents and is located in the northern West Bank, along with Rechelim, which is home to around 240 people. Sansana, home to 240 people, is in the southern West Bank, near Hebron.

The government is also seeking ways to prevent another outpost, Ulpana, located outside Jerusalem near the Beit El settlement, from having some of its buildings demolished — as a Supreme Court decision had called for — by May 1.

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