Government to formulate decision legalizing settlements

Minister Tzachi Hanegbi cautioned that this is a first step in a process that could take years.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The government will take the first step toward legalizing the status of dozens of settlements in Judea and Samaria by passing a formal decision on the matter very soon, Settlement Affairs Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told the Knesset Wednesday.

“It is the duty of the Knesset and the government to take urgent action” regarding the communities that have been waiting for official authorization for years, Hanegbi said from the Knesset rostrum.

“The legal advisers who deal with this are of the opinion that regularizing normative life for those tens of thousands of residents requires a government decision that will define the young settlements as ‘settlements in the process of regularization,’” he said.

He informed the plenum that he will be formulating the text together with Blue and White minister Michael Biton, who is in charge of civilian affairs in the Defense Ministry. This would ensure that the proposal has the backing of both major parties in the coalition.

In contrast to his Knesset speech, however, Hanegbi told The Jerusalem Post that the whole process could take years and that he assumes that those opposed to the settlement enterprise would take the matter to the High Court of Justice to stop it.

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Right-wing activists have been pressing the government for years to take the necessary steps so that the fledgling communities, called “illegal outposts” by the left wing and the international community, can enjoy proper electricity and water supply as well as physical security.

There are some 20,000 people living in approximately 70 such communities, many of which were established within the official boundaries of veteran settlements to stake out the maximum area allowed for each village. Others were set up in more isolated areas with the intent of establishing facts on the ground to foil the possibility of a Palestinian state in the region.

Hebron Hills Regional Council head Yochai Dimri agreed with the urgency that Hanegbi mentioned.

“Many families in the Hebron hills have been waiting years for regularization, and meanwhile are suffering from inadequate humanitarian infrastructure…. The Israeli government must take advantage of the window of time left in the Trump administration and bring about real change for the settlements,” he said.

Eliyahu Attia, the director of activities of the Young Settlements Forum, warned that voters would remember if the announcement does not actually lead to action.

“If this will turn into a campaign promise like [the non-removal of illegal village] Khan al Ahmar or sovereignty in the Jordan Valley, it will boomerang politically on [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, so it must be done now. The time for promises is over,” he said.