Legalize it! Israel committee defies UN, backs settlement expansion

A Palestinian woman waves her national flag in front of an Israeli military water cannon during a demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh to protest against the confiscation of Palestinian land to expand the nearby Jewish settlement of Halamish (AFP Photo / Abbas Momani)
Israel’s outposts on the West Bank which have been condemned as illegal by the UN should be authorized, said an Israeli committee. The settlements are a constant source of conflict and have been repeatedly ruled as a violation of international law by the

The so-called “outpost committee” appointed by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in January said that it recommends the legalization of the outposts on the basis that the territory was not occupied.

“Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria and the establishment of settlements cannot, in and of itself, be considered illegal,” claimed the report published by the committee.

The report stressed that the image “that has been displayed before us regarding Israeli settlement activity in Judea and Samaria does not befit the behavior of a state [Israel] that prides itself on, and is committed to, the rule of law.”

The UN has repeatedly decried the building of Jewish settlement in the West Bank as a breach of international law. Moreover, it "undermines the peace process and poses a threat to the two-state solution and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.”

However, the Israeli committee argues that due to the “unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria” through history, “classical laws of occupation are not applicable.”

On Friday the UN Human Right Council appointed a three person team to launch a probe into the impact of Israeli settlements on Palestinian residents of the West Bank.

Israel responded saying they would not allow the team of independent experts access to Israeli territory. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that the probe represents a distortion of international law that the UN uses to victimize Israel.

Meanwhile, earlier in the week the European Parliament called for Israeli settlers living in the West Bank who commit acts of violence against Palestinians to be brought to justice. In addition, the Parliament appealed to the Israeli government to cease its construction program in the occupied territories as it represented a serious “obstacle to the peace process.”

Reports of violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians have been escalating over the last few months.

Regular clashes occur in the disputed region between Palestinians protesting Israel’s presence and Israeli police forces. In May over 80 Palestinians were injured when Israeli security forces opened fire on them with rubber bullets and tear gas.

Israel settlements in the West Bank are a major bone of contention between Palestinians and Israelis and have put the breaks on peace talks. Palestine has refused to conduct talks while Israel continues its construction program. Israel has repeatedly refused to stop its building of new settlements in the area.

Palestinians strongly object to Israeli presence in the area that they claim is part of their future state, while Israel argues that historical and religious links justify its presence.

Israel expropriated the West Bank now populated by 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians from Jordan in 1967.