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

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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.

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.''

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