Israel responds to Palestinian call to restart talks by legalizing three West Bank settlement outposts

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The Jewish outpost of Bruchin, near the Palestinian West Bank city of Nablus, which Israel has decided to legalise. Source: AFP

Prime Minister’s Office:

Status of the Communities of Sansana, Rechelim and Bruchin Formalized

23/04/2012
A ministerial team that was authorized by the Government decided today to formalize the status of the communities of Sansana, Rechelim and Bruchin, which were established in the 1990’s on the basis of the decisions of previous governments.

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Netanyahu’s special ministerial outpost committee

That’s the announcement from Netanyahu’s office informing us of the legalization of three illegal outposts in the West Bank. The outposts were retrospectively “legalised” this week by a special ministerial committee  set up by the prime minister. The committee was made up of four ministers.

The outposts, Sansana, Rechelim and Bruchin, were never formally authorized when founded in the 1990s and are still considered illegal under international law.

The European Union has requested Israel reverse the decision. The provocative move has also been criticized by Jordan, France, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Palestinian Authority.

The U.S. State Department voiced ‘concern’.

AFP:

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated Washington’s opposition to settlement activity on the West Bank and said the United States asked Israel, through its embassy in Tel Aviv, for “clarification.”

“We are obviously concerned,” Nuland told reporters.

“We don’t think this is helpful to the process, and we don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity,” she said.

“We make this case every time we have an incident like this that it is not helpful to the process – it doesn’t get us where we need to go,” the spokeswoman said, adding: “We will continue to raise it as we have.”

The decision was announced just as US envoy David Hale was visiting the region in an effort to revive the moribund peace process.

Hale met in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who condemned the Israeli decision. Hale also held talks with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, Nuland said.

Nuland rejected a charge that Israel was undercutting the US envoy’s mission, saying: “David Hale has been in the region all week trying to work on the issues involved here and bring the parties back to the table.”

David Hale was there to revive the peace process? The parties are not going back to the table Victoria. Why do you bother saying anything when we know the U.S State Department will do nothing?

Netanyahu’s timing is just spectacular. He set up this ‘special ministerial committee’ just five days after chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, sent a letter to Netanyahu from Abbas reiterating Palestinian demands for restarting talks which of course included an end to settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s office said he would respond within two weeks. And he did.

Saudi Gazette: Israeli move on settlers is reply to Abbas’ letter

RAMALLAH — The Palestinian presidency criticized Tuesday an Israeli decision to legalise three outposts as its reply to a letter demanding a settlement freeze to renew peace talks.

“The decision on the settlements is the Israeli answer to President Mahmud Abbas’ letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Palestinians’ presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told media, adding that it was “expected.”

Abu Rudeina further called on the “Israeli government to immediately cease unilateral actions, especially settlements activity.” “Every single settlement built on Palestinian land is illegal”, Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator told the media.

“As such, this sends a clear message to both the international community and to the Palestinians that Israel is more committed to land theft than peacemaking,” senior official PLO official Hanan Ashrawi said.

Hagit Ofran, director of Peace Now has slammed the decision to legalize the settlements:

“The Israeli government is proving its true policy, that instead of going to peace it is building new settlements,” she told AFP on Tuesday.

This is the first time since 1990 that the government of Israel decides on establishing new settlements, and the government’s manoeuvre, of establishing a committee to establish the settlements, is a trick aimed at hiding the true policy from the public.”

Ofran stressed the decision changes the reality on the ground.

“All the years these outposts weren’t legal, the state said they aren’t for real, and now they suddenly are,” she said.

Bruchin has around 350 settlers and is located near Nablus,  Rechelim has around 240 settlers and is located near Nablus. Sansana has around 240 settlers and is located near Hebron.

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