Netanyahu supports a government vote on legalizing West Bank outposts

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Hanegbi to ‘Post’: Initial list includes 69 communities

CURRENT MINISTER-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi catches the ear of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2016. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

CURRENT MINISTER-without-Portfolio Tzachi Hanegbi catches the ear of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset in 2016.

(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to a government vote to legalize the West Bank outposts, Community Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) told the Knesset on Wednesday.

“We will formulate the text of a government decision with the objective of advancing all the legal processes that would lead to the regulation of the young settlements [outposts],” Hanegbi said.

He explained that he would write out the proposal together with Michael Biton, who is a Blue and White minister in the Defense Ministry.

Hanegbi said the decision was a response to the opinion of legal advisers who cautioned that a government declaration was needed to set the record straight on the intention to legalize the outposts.

Netanyahu has been under pressure from the Right to authorize the outposts, particularly in light of his failure to annex the West Bank settlements.

The legalization of the outposts would expand Israel’s footprint in the West Bank beyond the boundaries of the map set out by US President Donald Trump for a two-state resolution to the conflict.

It’s a move that would likely be severely condemned by the international community and opposed by the incoming Biden administration.

Hanegbi told The Jerusalem Post that the exact content of the government decision was still unclear and that further consultations were needed to word the text.

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“This is a declaration that two relevant ministers with the support of Netanyahu will prepare a decision that will be put forward to achieve this objective,” he said.

It was unclear if all the outposts could be included. Obviously, it is easier to authorize those fledgling communities on state land as compared to those on private Palestinian land.

As a starting point, Hanegbi said, he had a list of 69 outposts, which he referred to throughout the conversation as “young settlements.”

He cautioned that the process of authorization could be prolonged, possibly years, and that he presumes it would involve legal petitions by opponents of the move to the High Court of Justice.

Hanegbi said that time is needed to properly word the decision and did not set a timetable for when the government would debate the matter. It is also important to ensure that consensus exists on the topic prior to the vote, and particularly important to secure the agreement of Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, since such an endeavor would need his support.

Last week the Defense Ministry’s legal adviser on settlement issues, Moshe Frucht, spoke with the Constitution, Justice and Law Committee on the matter. He told it that a statement of intent is needed by the government on legalization, so that services could be provided to the outposts.

Hanegbi cautioned that it would take years before all the outposts are actually legalized.

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“There will be many governments in Israel and the US before the matter is settled. What is important is that we are beginning to work on it,” he said.

The Yesha Council welcomed the decision and said it would work with the ministers.

“This is good news for those who hold the Israeli settlements in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley close to their hearts.”

“For many years, hundreds of families living in the young settlements could not enjoy the most basic things – running water, regular electricity, Internet and communications and a security apparatus,” the Yesha Council said.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) was more skeptical.

“The real test will be in the actions,” Smotrich said, adding that he hopes that this was not “another meaningless” declaration but one that would allow the legalization of the outposts as new settlements.

Still, he said, it appeared that “this evening an important step was taken” on the matter.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg accused Netanyahu of sanctioning land theft for the benefit of his upcoming electoral political battle with Yamina Party head MK Naftali Bennett, rather than focusing on the new normalization deals with neighboring Arab states.

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