Israel plans to turn illegal West Bank outpost into major settlement

Israel plans to turn illegal West Bank outpost into major settlement
Israel said last week it would respond to the Maale Adumim attack by expanding settlements. Its military has signed orders to move forward with the plan.
2 min read
29 February, 2024
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal in international law, but the Israeli government continues to support their expansion. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

An order signed on Tuesday by Israeli army chief Major General Yehuda Fox will allow an illegal outpost in the West Bank to become a major urban settlement.

The outpost, which currently bears the name of Mitzpeh Yehuda and covers 50 dunams of land, will become a city named Mishmar Yehuda.

Through the order, the area allocated by the Israeli army to the settlement has been multiplied by 8 to reach 417 dunams (104 acres).

Israeli authorities and settler groups have already discussed plans to build 3,600 houses in the settlement, which would eventually have the potential to host 13,000 settlers, according to Haaretz.

Tuesday's order builds on a controversial Israeli cabinet decision adopted last year to 'legalise' nine West Bank outposts.

All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law but Israel's defence ministry has still permitted the construction of more settlement outposts.

In practice, successive Israeli governments have authorised the construction or expansion of hundreds of settlements over the years, 'legalising' them after the fact.

The recent order also follows a declaration by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on 22 February, when he vowed the construction of over 3,300 new houses in illegal West Bank settlements in "response" to an attack near the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement.

Smotrich announced that the Israeli government would submit plans for the construction of 2,350 housing units in Ma'aleh Adumim, 300 in Keidar, and 694 in Efrat. 

"Our enemies know that any harm to us will lead to more construction and more development and more of our hold all over the country," Smotrich wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

In response to Smotrich's declaration, more than 20 European diplomatic missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah issued a joint statement against Israel's settlement policy and the demolitions of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Successive Israeli governments have invested in building towns in the West Bank and expelling Palestinians, particularly Bedouin communities.

Approximately 380,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank, according to figures from Israeli human rights group B’tselem.