Netanyahu Legalizes More West Bank Settlements In Blow To Peace Talks
By Esther Tran Le | April 25, 2012 2:07 AM EST
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has further compromised the stalled peace negotiations with Palestine by approving the legalization of three settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The three outposts -- Bruchin, Rechelim and Sansana -- house a total of 830 residents and have remained without Israeli legal status since their establishment in the 1990s.
The three communities would join the other 120 official settlements along the West Bank, which encompass a total of 342,000 inhabitants. All of them are considered illegal under international law forbidding settlenment of civilian populations in occupied territory, whether authorized by Israel or not.
The Palestinian Authority vehemently condemned the Netanyahu government's move.
"Every single settlement built on Palestinian land is illegal," chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told the BBC.
The PA called the outposts' legalization a slap in the face to President Mahmoud Abbas' request to "immediately cease unilateral actions, especially settlement activity," spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told Agence France-Presse.
The PA still awaits a formal response from Netanyahu.
Israel does indeed appear to be neglecting the stalled peace talks, which began in 2010 when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton invited Netanyahu and Abbas to engage in direct negotiations.
In 2011, Netanyahu acknowledged the need for territorial compromise, saying that "in a genuine peace, we will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland."
But with the revival of settlement legalizations, for the first time since 1990 according to Hagit Ofran of the Israeli watchdog group Peace Now, the future of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and a two-state solution seem doubtful.
"Netanyahu has pushed things to a dead end yet again," said Abu Rudeina, according to Qatar-based news agency Al Jazeera.
On the other hand, the Netanyahu administration has argued that the legalization of these three outposts does not mean "any expansion of existing settlements or establishment of new ones," an Israeli official told the BBC, since the outposts were established in 1990.
Netanyahu is forming a new ministerial committee to review the legal status of the outposts, perhaps even changing the legal term "outpost."
But Peace Now reproached the Israeli government for building new settlements deceitfully.
"All these years these outposts weren't legal, the state said they aren't for real, and now they suddenly are," Ofran said, as reported by Al Jazeera.
"I don't want to get into a discussion about what the Israelis use as an excuse for what is legal and what is not. The Israeli government must choose between peace and settlements. It cannot have both," said Erekat.
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