US 'concerned' after Israel fast-tracks bill to legalise outposts
The US State Department has expressed "deep concern" after an Israeli parliamentary committee voted in favor of fast-tracking legislation authorising 70 settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank, which are not recognised by Israel.
"We are deeply concerned about the potential 'legalisation' of outposts that have long been deemed illegal under Israeli law," a State Department spokesman told The Times of Israeli in response to a query.
While all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law, some settlers have established 'wildcat' outposts on Palestinian land with the tacit approval of the Israeli government.
On Wednesday, the Knesset's Arrangements Committee voted in favour of exempting a string of right-wing bills from a 45 day-gap which must ordinarily elapse between the submission of a bill and when it can be brought to the Knesset to a vote.
A temporary body formed after elections, the committee controls the legislative agenda in Israel’s parliament until a new government is formed.
The bills fast-tracked included legislation to rubber stamp the 70 outposts, which are home to some 20,000 settlers, in addition to another allowing the Knesset to override Supreme Court rulings.
They were introduced by the panel's chairman, Likud MK Miki Zohar. The move was seen as an attempt to split Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition, which is made up of parties which supported the bill, according to Israeli media.
However, with centrist Yair Lapid tasked with forming a new government late on Wednesay, Zohar's role is set to be taken over by a lawmaker from the Yesh Atid party, MR Karine Elharrar.
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The bills themselves are likely to stall, with lawmakers on the committee agreeing not to advance the legislation further until a unity government is formed which addresses other issues in Israel.
The US State Department nonetheless urged that Israel "refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions or take us further away from peace."
"This include evictions, settlement activity and home demolitions, and certainly includes the legalisation of Israeli outposts in the West Bank that have long been illegal even under Israeli law," the State Department statement continued.
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