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Israeli lawmakers move to annex West Bank, one museum at a time

Israel's parliament appears likely to pass a law funding Israeli museums in the West Bank – the latest settler effort to promote a creeping annexation of the disputed territory.

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As Rachel Slonim shows a visitor around the modest, unheated archeological museum in this West Bank settlement, she becomes animated when she reaches a display case with artifacts from the biblical Israelite period.

''The Israelite period was the most beautiful period in the history of Samaria,'' says Ms. Slonim, referring to the 600-year era that she says climaxed with the reign of King Omri, who built his capital near the area where she lives today. ''Settlement is very important in our eyes and the eyes of the Holy One Blessed Be He, who gave us this land.''

Slonim and her husband, Zvi, who helped found the Kedumim settlement more than three decades ago, are among more than 300,000 Israelis with homes outside the borders of Israel proper. Technically they live under military rule, established after Israel conquered the West Bank in the 1967 war.

But the trappings of civilian Israeli government and the implied annexation that comes with it have been accumulating in the area in recent years. Now a new bill in Israel's parliament would give unusually high-profile endorsement for the expansion of Israeli government in the disputed territory, which settlers see as the biblical cradle of Jewish civilization but Palestinians consider to be the heartland of their future state.

Legislator Uri Ariel of the far-right National Union party says the first step, outlined in this bill, would be securing government funding for museums in settlements, like the one in Kadumim. With backing from Israeli Culture Minister Limor Livnat, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, the bill passed its first reading last week and looks likely to become law.

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