Israeli has legalised the status of three settlement outposts in the West Bank, the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
At a meeting late Monday, a ministerial committee “decided to formalise the status of three communities which were established in the 1990s following the decisions of past governments,” said the statement.
The three outposts — Bruchin, Rechelim and Sansana — had no Israeli legal status since being established.
Bruchin has around 350 residents and is located in the northern West Bank, along with Rechelim, which is home to around 240 people. Sansana, home to 240 people, is in the southern West Bank, near Hebron.
The Israeli government had committed to the Supreme Court it would regulate the status of the outposts, and Netanyahu on Sunday formed a new four-man ministerial committee to seek legal solutions to the contested projects.
An Israeli official stressed on Tuesday that the committee’s “decision does not change the reality on the ground” nor does it “establish new settlements or expand existing settlements.”
But Hagit Ofran of Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now slammed the government for establishing new settlements in a a deceitful way.
“The Israeli government is proving its true policy, that instead of going to peace it is building new settlements,” she told AFP on Tuesday.
“This is the first time since 1990 that the government of Israel decides on establishing new settlements, and the government’s manoeuvre, of establishing a committee to establish the settlements, is a trick aimed at hiding the true policy from the public.”
Ofran stressed the decision changes the reality on the ground.
“All the years these outposts weren’t legal, the state said they aren’t for real, and now they suddenly are,” she said.
Israel considers settler outposts built without government approval to be illegal, but the international community views all settlements as unlawful, whether approved by the government or not.