Israel accused of trying to legalize four unapproved settlements


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the opening of the winter session of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, on October 31, 2011 in Jerusalem.


Gali Tibbon

An activist group suspects that the Israeli government is taking steps to quietly legalize four new Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The legal process is beginning just days before United States Secretary of State John Kerry is supposed to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

"The timing is very significant because it's a direct affront to all efforts at trying to revive any kind of peace negotiations. It's an attempt to tell the Americans that Israel calls the shots," Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi told the BBC.

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Peace Now, an Israeli anti-settlement organization,  had filed a petition with the Israeli government, protesting four unauthorized West Bank communities currently home to Jewish settlers.

The four outposts have been slated for demolition since 2003, the Guardian reported.

Yet in response to the petition, Israel's defense minister said that it had ordered officials to explore whether the outposts are on "state land." Peace now interprets this message to mean that the Israeli government wants to retroactively make those outposts legal. 

"The government is trying to avoid the enforcement of the law and to legalize the outposts instead of evicting them," Hagit Ofran, a Peace Now spokeswoman, told the Associated Press.