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Israel moves to legalize West Bank settlement outpost

February 4, 2018

The Israeli cabinet has approved a proposal to legalize an unauthorized West Bank outpost. The decision was approved unanimously and came in response to a killing there last month — allegedly by Palestinian assailants.

Havat Gilad settlement
Image: Reuters/R. Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the decision to retroactively authorize the 50-family outpost of Havat Gilad was intended to "allow the continuation of normal life there."

"Whoever thinks that through the reprehensible murder of a resident of Havat Gilad, a father of six, that he can break our spirit and weaken us, is making a bitter mistake," Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the legalization of the outpost would help the community of Havat Gilad to return to normalcyImage: Reuters/R. Zvulun

Israeli forces are still searching for suspects in the killing of Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a 35-year-old Havat Gilad settler who was shot multiple times on January 9 by someone in a passing vehicle.

Authorities presume the assailant or assailants to be Palestinian.

Full recognition of the outpost, however, which unlike established Israeli settlements is considered illegal under Israeli law, still faces a number of legal and bureaucratic obstacles.

Threat to establishing Palestinian state

The anti-settlement group Peace Now said that legalizing the Havat Gilad outpost, which is located deep in the West Bank about 15 kilometers (10 miles) west of Nablus, could endanger the viability of establishing a future Palestinian state.

The organization referred to the move as a "cynical exploitation of an abominable murder."

Funeral of Rabbi Raziel Shevach
Calls to legalize the outpost of Havat Gilad followed shortly after the funeral of Rabbi Raziel ShevachImage: Getty Images/AFP/M. Kahana

Palestinian officials have also condemned and rejected the move. Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) executive committee, said that "Netanyahu is trying to make facts on ground. All settlements in the West Bank, including in Jerusalem, are illegal."

Some 600,000 Israelis live in more than 200 settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim for their future state, along with the Gaza Strip. Some of the illegal outposts of these settlements have been cleared in recent years and residents evicted and relocated.

ss/ng (dpa, Reuters)

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