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

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While the bill itself appears modest, critics say it amounts to declaring an annexation policy that boosts right-wing settlers and their supporters at the expense of Palestinians and Israelis who are uncomfortable with the notion that the West Bank – and its majority Palestinian population – will become part of Israel someday.

''The policy has been to continue Israeli rule and extend Israeli law in bits and pieces, gradually to Israelis living in the West Bank while keeping Palestinians living under military occupation or a mix of military occupation and Palestinian Authority autonomous rule,'' says Gershom Gorenberg, a prominent historian of the settler movement. He says what is new about Mr. Ariel's bill is that the annexing is being done brazenly.

''He is saying, I don't want to do it like thieves in the night, I want to do it publicly, I'm proud of this. Ariel wants public recognition of what he is doing," says Mr. Gorenberg, author of The Unmaking of Israel. "The goal is to take the long process of applying Knesset [parliamentary] legislation and military orders to settlers, which blurs Israel's borders and who lives in Israel and who doesn't, and make it a declared policy.''

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi termed the museum bill ''the death knell of any chances of peace.''

''It is ensuring that settlements remain part of Israel and it exposes a very dangerous policy,'' she added. ''Israel keeps talking about a two state solution, but in reality, it is working for a one state solution.''

Equality for settlers

Ariel says the bill is needed to ensure that the right to culture of settlers is equal to that of other Israelis, something he says has not been the case until now. ''First of all there will be equality,'' he says. ''They can get orderly budgets and it will definitely bring more visitors, more culture, more everything."

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