Amidst Israeli plans to “legalize” random and unauthorised settlement outposts, to build new settlements, and expand existing ones, Palestinian Presidency spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rodeina, demanded the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu halts all unilateral moves in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including in Israeli controlled East Jerusalem.His statements came in response to an Israeli decision to legalize three settlement outposts in the West Bank.
Abu Rodeina stated that the decision is a negative move that would only lead to further complications in the efforts to resume peace talks.
The office of Netanyahu stated on Tuesday that the government decided to legalize the three outposts that were established in the 1990s.
The three unauthorised outposts in question are Bruchin, Sansana and Rechelim; they were built on Palestinian lands without any approval from Israel. The outposts are now considered by Israel as official settlements in the occupied West Bank.
There are 120 “legal” settlements, by Israel’s definition, in the occupied West Bank, including in Israeli controlled East Jerusalem; the settlements are “home” to more than 342,000 Israeli settlers.
Abu Rodeina said that this decision “seems to be the official Israeli response to a letter sent by Abbas to Netanyahu, informing him that the Israeli policies caused the collapse of the peace talks”, and demanded the Israeli government halts its violations, including settlement activities, and the ongoing invasions and attacks targeting the Palestinian territories.
Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that Israeli President, Shimon Peres, told its reporter that Abbas is willing to resume peace talks with Tel Aviv, adding that he [Peres] believes the peace process has a chance, “but Netanyahu has other plans”.
Furthermore, Israeli Peace Now Movement slammed the remarks of an Israeli official who said that “legalizing the outposts is not the same as building new settlements”.
Peace Now said that there are more than 100 unauthorised settlement outposts that were installed by different Israeli governments since the 1990’s.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now stated that the Israeli government is just “deluding the public with its smoke screens” regarding what is really taking place on the ground.
On its part, the United States said that it opposes the move, and asked for clarification from Israel through the American embassy in the country.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Inland, stated that the White House is “concerned”, describing the Israeli move as “counterproductive” to the efforts to resume direct peace talks.
The Israeli decision was also denounced by Jordan during a meeting that took place in Amman between Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Nasser Jouda, and U.S. Middle East Envoy, David Hale, who also held a meeting with Palestinian negotiators in Amman.
The Canadian National Post Newspaper stated that the current president of the European Union (from Denmark) denounced the Israeli decision and considered it a “serious threat to the two state solution”.
In August of last year, the Israeli High Court ordered the government of Netanyahu to discuss the issue of 16 unauthorised outposts in the occupied territories; this includes Sansana, Bruchin and Rechelim outposts.
The Netanyahu government said that it intends to legalize 10 outposts, including the three outposts mentioned above, and that it intends to demolish six others.
However the Israeli ministerial cabinet made a decision to refer the matter to the Israeli Supreme Court to ask it to extend the May 1 deadline that requires Israel to remove the unauthorised outpost of Ulpana.
All Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, including those in and around Israeli controlled East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory.
Meanwhile, consecutive Israeli governments, including the right-wing coalition of Netanyahu, only considers some outposts to be illegal, although Israel legalized several outposts, and considers its “official” West Bank settlements as part of Israel.