Netanyahu commits Israel to recognise illegal settler outposts in occupied West Bank
Returning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to legalise illegal Israeli settlement outposts, in order to reach a coalition agreement with the Religious Zionist Party (RZP) late on Wednesday night.
According to terms published by the RZP just minutes before the coalition was announced, Netanyahu committed to recognise up to 100 illegal outpost communities across the Palestinian territories, to the dismay of Israel’s international partners.
Netanyahu also agreed to transfer authority over Israeli civilians living in 'Area C' of the Occupied West Bank to the same government ministries that serve the rest of Israeli territory - in effect annexing Palestinian land.
Previously, under Israeli military occupation, 'Area C' - which accounts for as much as 60 percent of the West Bank - will now be under Israeli civilian authority.
Netanyahu has been toying with recognising the settlements which the Israeli right calls "young communities" throughout coalition negotiations but which the international community considers illegal.
The Biden administration has spoken publicly about their distaste for outpost authorisation and the UN Security Council heard last week that France has warned Israel against the move.
"We are deeply concerned about the potential 'legalisation' of outposts that have long been deemed illegal under Israeli law," a State Department spokesman told The Times of Israel in 2021.
But international outcry has rarely abated the rate of settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israel's government has built or authorised dozens of settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law since 1967.
Outposts, built by Israeli settlers without government authorisation usually on land seized from private Palestinian owners, have been allowed to expand under the protection of the military even while technically illegal.
Netanyahu has been promising to legalise the outposts for years, as part of his return to frontline Israeli politics.
"I swear to you: If I create a strong right-wing government without a rotation, I will take care of the settlements and the authorisation of the young settlements," he said during a visit to a settlement outpost in the West Bank in early 2021.