Israel legalises 3 settler outposts, angering Palestinians (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Jonah Mandel 04/24/12)
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Israel on Tuesday decided to legalise three settler outposts in a
move denounced by the Palestinians as a dismissive response to a
letter from president Mahmud Abbas calling for a settlement freeze.
A ministerial committee has decided "to formalise the status of three
communities which were established in the 1990s," the office of Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
The move sparked an angry response from the Palestinians, Israeli
settlement watchdog Peace Now, which said it was the first time the
government had created new settlements since the 1990s and Denmark
which holds the European Union presidency.
The three outposts -- Bruchin, Rechelim and Sansana -- had no Israeli
legal status since they were set up, but will now join the 120
official settlements dotted across the occupied West Bank that are
home to more than 342,000 people.
The Palestinian leadership said the decision was "expected" and said
it was "the Israeli answer" to a letter from Abbas to Netanyahu, in
which he laid out the Palestinian grievances over the collapse of the
peace process and outlined his demands for restarting negotiations.
Central to the letter was the demand for a settlement freeze.
"The decision on the settlements is the Israeli answer to president
Abbas´s letter," presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation
Organisation, agreed that what was happening on the ground was "the
real Israeli response" to Abbas´s letter.
"This proves that Israel is interested neither in a political process
nor in ending the occupation and the two-state solution. Israel is
only interested in control, in grabbing lands and the creation of the
greater Israel," she told Voice of Palestine radio.
But an Israeli official denied the move was tantamount to creating
"This decision does not change the reality on the ground. It does not
establish new settlements or expand existing settlements," he said.
His remarks were roundly denounced by Peace Now´s Hagit Ofran, who
accused the government of creating a smoke screen.
"This is the first time since 1990 that the government decides on
establishing new settlements, and the government´s manoeuvre --
establishing a committee to establish the settlements -- is a trick
aimed at hiding the true policy from the public," she said.
The current EU president Denmark said the Israeli move "represents a
fundamental threat to a two state solution" to the Middle East
Danish Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal expressed "great
disappointment" at what he called "Israel´s tactic of constantly
nibbling away, establishing real and concrete facts on the ground on
Palestinian territory that are illegal."
Under terms of a Supreme Court ruling last August, the Israeli
government was required to address the legal status of some 16
In six cases, the government pledged to demolish the outposts, while
it said it would legalise the status of 10 others, among them
Bruchin, Rechelim and Sansana.
On Monday night, Netanyahu´s inner circle, the Forum of Eight,
decided to ask the Supreme Court to extend its deadline for the
demolition of the Ulpana outpost, which is to be razed by May 1.
"We will ask the Supreme Court for a postponement in order to give us
time to deal with it," Netanyahu told army radio on Tuesday. "We are
considering a few options."
Yesh Din, the Israeli NGO that had petitioned the court to remove the
outposts on behalf of Palestinian land owners, denounced the move
as "driven by political considerations at the expense of the rule of
Peace Now says there are more than 100 "illegal" outposts which were
set up by various Israeli governments since the 1990s in an
unofficial and illegal manner.
Israel only considers settlement outposts to be illegal, but the
international community views all settlements as unlawful, whether
approved by the government or not.
Meanwhile, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh denounced Israel´s
decision during talks with US envoy David Hale.
Jordan, which has a 1994 peace deal with the Jewish state, "condemns
Israeli settlement activities as well as its unilateral measures,"
state-run Petra news agency reported. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France
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