Israel legalizes three outposts
Israel moved to legalize three settlement outposts in the West Bank on Tuesday, drawing condemnation from pro-Palestinian activists.
Until now, the three outposts, which were built on part of the occupied Palestinian territory that Israel captured in the 1967 war, had no Israeli legal status.
"The panel decided to formalize the status of the three communities ... which were established in the 1990s following the decisions of past governments," a statement issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said.
A total of more than 800 settlers live at the Bruchin, Sansana and Rechelim outposts.
Most of the international community regards the outposts as illegal, but Israel distinguishes between settlements it has approved and those it has not.
Palestinian officials have said they would not restart peace negotiations with Israel as long as the Jewish state halts all settlement construction. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that demand in a letter to the Israeli prime minister last week, but still hasn't received a formal response. Peace talks have been stalled since 2010.
On Tueday, a spokesman for Abbas condemned Israel's latest move.
"Netanyahu has pushed things to a dead end yet again," Nabil Abu Rdainah said.
Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement group, also criticized the move, saying the change in status for the three outposts' status marked the first time since 1990 that the Israeli government had established a new settlement.
"The Netanyahu government is trying to deceive the public and hide its true policy," Peace Now said in a statement. "This announcement is against the Israeli interest of achieving peace and a two-state solution."
Netanyahu's government, though, played down the significance of the move.
Israeli government official said the "decision does not change the reality on the ground" nor does it "establish new settlements or expand existing settlements."
pfd/acb (Reuters, AFP)