Israel to roll out plan to legalize all West Bank outposts

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman intends to roll out a plan in a few weeks to authorize some 100 outposts, thereby turning them from illegal communities into legal West Bank settlements or neighborhoods of existing settlements

His plan is based on information in a new 200 page document published Friday, dubbed the “Zanberg report,” authored by the Regulations Committee for settlements in Judea and Samara. It was headed by Jerusalem District Court Judge Haya Zandberg.

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“Strengthening settlements in Judea and Samaria is first and foremost in Israel’s security interest,” Liberman said.

“We will act responsibly and creatively and within a few weeks we’ll present a comprehensive and systematic plan of action to regularize [legalize] the outposts in Judea and Samaria,” Liberman said.

The Left-wing group Peace Now warned: "This is a serious and dangerous report, which recommends that Israel blatantly violate international law and trample on the protected needs and rights of the Palestinian population.”

It’s implementation will create a de-facto system of apartheid, it added.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called on the government to implement the report.

The document is the latest attempt by settler leaders and right-wing politicians and judicial experts to normalize settler building in Area C of the West Bank by divorcing it from existing legal constraints.

Some of the proposals would also allow for the creation of new settlements, a move that the government in response to international pressure, has mostly refrained from taking for over two decades. The report presents a new legal understanding of existing regulations governing Jewish building in Judea and Samaria. It recommends a number of concrete actions that can be taken both to avoid the demolition of outposts and the thousands of illegal settler homes.

The focus is on legalizing those homes, including by offering more protection to settler property and less protection to the private Palestinian property.

At present it’s estimated that there are well over 4,000 illegal settler homes, the bulk of which are actually located in legalized settlements and the remainder in the outposts.

Many of those homes are on private Palestinian property with no legal option for authorization.

In some cases the problem is not the homes, which are legal and on state land. But the absence of an access route.

The Zanberg report speaks to the need to use the process of eminent domain to allow for access routes through private Palestinian property to existing Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

It calls for new settlements to be created in situations where there is existing building that is not contiguous to the main part of the settlement.

The report also took issue with the Defense Ministry’s blue line team, that has examined and in some cases use new technology to re-examine the property status in existing settlements.

The blue-line team has done so with an eye to ensuring that settler homes are built on state land and not on private Palestinian land. It also tasked with ensuring that land set aside for future building projects are on state land.

But base on new information it discovered cases of homes believed to have been built on state land, that were actually constructed on private Palestinian property.

This new information transformed legal homes into illegal ones.

The Zandberg report, is the third in a series of reports on West Bank outposts and illegal settler building. The Talia Sasson report in 2005 argued that illegal settler building was criminal activity and should be demolished. In a 180-degree turn around the Levy report in 2012 sought solutions for the illegal homes and this latest report looks to both authorize and expand construction.

The international community routinely calls for Israel to freeze such activity and the Palestinians have argued that it is a stumbling bloc to the peace process. The Obama Administration had a no tolerance policy for any Jewish building over the pre-1967 lines.

The Trump Administration has not leaned as heavily on Israel with regard to settlement construction. Right-wing politicians have argued that such building can now be accelerated. Israeli Right-wing politicians have also pushed for Israel to annex all the settlements in Area C of the West Bank. The report comes as US President Donald Trump is reportedly close to unveiling a new peace plan.