Three Jewish settlement outposts Sansana, Bruchin and Rechelim in the West Bank, have been granted legal status by an Israeli ministerial committee. The move will help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's standing in the coalition after coming under fire by his own Likud party for not being committed to the settlers. The move has inflamed Palestinians who accuse Netanyahu of pushing the peace process into a dead end.
Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now said the change of the three outposts' status marked the first time since 1990 that the Israeli government had established a new settlement, adding that the four-man committee did not have the authority. Most of the international community views all Jewish settlements in the West Bank as illegal. However, Israel distinguishes between settlements it has approved and the outposts, which were never granted official authorisation.
Israeli Minister of Science Daniel Hershkowitz: "All those territories were purchased legally. Now someone else comes and claims that it's his property. Well, this has to be checked in court and I am sure that a legal solution should be found. There is no room whatsoever for evacuation of that neighbourhood."
Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din, who helped Palestinians petition the court over ownership, says the land on which the Beit El settlement was constructed was seized from the Palestinian village of Dura al-Qara in 1970 for military purposes.
Yesh Din Lawyer Schlomi Zachary: "We in Yesh Din expected that the government of the State of Israel, which is a democracy, enforce the law even though it is not a very pleasant enforcement. In our point of view in Yesh Din, and the fact that law enforcement is subject to political consideration is something that undermines the rule of law, especially in such a neglected zone like the West Bank."
With deepening differences within the cabinet, Netanyahu told army radio that the government would seek a solution to the problem of disputed land ownership claims and ask the Supreme Court to push back the May 1 deadline.