Jerusalem24 – The United States and European Union have condemned the retroactive legalization by the Israeli Cabinet of nine illegal settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has just wrapped up a visit to the region, issued a statement yesterday saying he was “deeply troubled” by the decision to legalize the outposts as well as advancing 10,000 settlement units in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem. The EU stated it “rejects” the decision, reiterating its position that all settlements are illegal under international law.
The Israeli Prime Minister’s office made the announcement on Sunday, saying the outposts legalization as well as other announced measures were decided “in response” to recent attacks in occupied East Jerusalem which killed ten Israeli settlers including three children.
“Bringing order back” to Jerusalem
On Sunday, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for National Security Affairs unanimously decided to retroactively legalize nine outposts out of a total of 77 put forward by Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, “in response to the murderous terrorist attacks in Jerusalem”.
Outposts, which can be as small as one or two tents or barracks surrounded by large tracts of land which Israeli settlers have seized from Palestinians for “grazing” purposes, are illegal even under Israeli law.
They are however frequently retroactively legalized, and both far-right extremist and Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and far-right extremist and finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who are both settlers themselves, campaigned on the promise they would seek retroactive legalization for all illegal outposts during their term.
The Ministerial Committee also decided to convene the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration “in the coming days” in order to approve the construction of new illegal settlement units across the occupied West Bank, as well as “increasing operational activity” by Israeli police against “instigators and supporters of terrorism” in occupied East Jerusalem.
Smotrich has already expressed he is “not satisfied” with the outcomes, and announced he would be pressing to “remove limits” on settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
Ben-Gvir, however, boasted on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that four Palestinian boys had been arrested for “incitement” as part of an “operation” he announced three days prior aiming to “bring order back” to Jerusalem.
במסגרת מבצע “ריכוז מאמץ” במזרח ירושלים נעצרו 4 נערים שהסיתו וקראו בפנים גלויות מול מצלמות התקשורת לרצח יהודים. לא נאפשר הסתה, לא נאפשר תמיכה בטרור! pic.twitter.com/SYkoZ2Ub52
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) February 14, 2023
Punitive measures a “de facto policy”
Palestinian analysts have told Jerusalem24 that these measures are simply a continuation of a de facto policy towards Palestinians, and have furthermore been an integral part of the ruling parties’ political agenda since before the elections.
But the expediency with which these measures are being implemented under Ben-Gvir in his new capacity as National Security Minister has even caught Israeli officials short.
Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has reportedly complained to Ben-Gvir that he doesn’t have enough officers available to speed up the process of home demolitions of Palestinian residents of occupied East Jerusalem to the rate that Ben-Gvir has asked of him, asking Ben-Gvir to “give me 300 more policemen”.
The Netanyahu administration had already been stepping up demolitions in occupied East Jerusalem since coming into office six weeks ago, demolishing 57 structures including 13 inhabited residential homes and displacing at least 72 people including 38 children so far.
At least 25 Palestinians including journalist Wael Salayma were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets in Jabal Al-Mukaber on Monday morning, when Israeli forces entered the East Jerusalem town to demolish two homes belonging to the Bashir family. Military bulldozers razed the lands immediately surrounding the houses as well as a fence in order to carry out the demolition. The Bashir family refused to demolish their house themselves and now face heavy fines.
19 Palestinians have been displaced from Jabal Al-Mukaber so far this year, and lawyer Saad Al-Qanbar told Jerusalem24’s sister station 24FM that 280 homes and other facilities are currently threatened with demolition in Jabal Al-Mukaber, or one-third of the village’s total buildings.
Alleged stabbing attempt
Another attack took place in occupied East Jerusalem on Monday night, when a 13-year-old Palestinian boy allegedly stabbed an Israeli Border Police officer inside a bus which was stopped at Shufat refugee camp checkpoint. The officer was then mistakenly shot by an Israeli security guard working alongside side him, and later died of his injuries.
The Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees’ Affairs said on Monday night that Israeli forces had arrested the parents and brother of the 13-year-old child.
Large numbers of Israeli reinforcements stormed the refugee camp following the incident at the checkpoint, and violent confrontations erupted between the residents and Israeli forces, who fired gas bombs, rubber-coated metal bullets, and live ammunition at the residents.
The driver of a vehicle was also shot and injured by Israeli forces for “not complying with orders”, and was transferred to hospital for treatment by the Red Crescent.
Nadeen Alshaer contributed additional reporting to this article.