The decision, which is part of a broader settlement expansion, could pave the way for similar legalizations. Prospects for meaningful peace talks just grew dimmer.
The Israeli government followed through on a promise to authorize three illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, in a move designed to mollify Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's settler constituency. It seems certain to make the prospects for meaningful peace talks with the Palestinians recede even further into the distance.
The settler outposts of Rekhelim, Sansana, and Brukhin, which have existed without government authorization on the West Bank since the 1990s, were all given official approval, though they remain illegal under international law. Education Minister Gideon Saar from the prime minister's Likud Party said Netanyahu "gave 1,200 people and the people of Israel a holiday gift," a reference to Israeli independence celebrations this week.
Ben Lynfield wrote about the pending approvals for the Monitor a few weeks ago and said that the decision "would make them among the first new settlements authorized since the early days of the peace process in 1995 and could pave the way for further legalizations among the 96 outposts in the West Bank."
He wrote that the legalizations, along with a government promise to legally challenge court orders to evacuate smaller settlements, "amount to a significant strengthening of Israel's hold in the West Bank, the biblically resonant territory occupied in 1967, which Palestinians claim as the heartland of their future state. For Netanyahu, who heads a right-wing coalition with a strong pro-settler contingent, it was a delicate dance of one small step back and six larger steps forward for settlements."
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