Israeli group says West Bank outposts boom under Trump

Ilan Ben Zion
Associated Press

Jerusalem – Israeli settlers have established dozens of unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank in recent years, most of them founded since President Donald Trump entered office, an Israeli watchdog group said Monday.

Peace Now said in a new report that Israeli settlers have founded 32 remote West Bank outposts since 2012, often with tacit government support.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek these areas as parts of a future state. Most of the international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal under international law and an impediment to a two-state solution to the conflict.

This Tuesday, July 7, 2019 photo shows the general view of a a settlement outpost Neve Achi, named by Peace Now as one of the dozens of outpost Israeli authorities have retroactively legalized dozens in the West Bank, a growing number of which have been founded since President Donald Trump entered office.

According to Peace Now, most of the new outposts are farms that aim to take over large tracts of land at the expense of Palestinians and are often publicly funded.

Other cases included the creation of educational institutions and tourist sites that receive funding from their respective government ministries.

“Most of the illegal construction is carried out in an organized manner by officials and with extensive funding from the public coffers,” it said.

Scores of settlement outposts dot the West Bank, in addition to over 120 established settlements. Over time, outposts often grow into neighborhoods of nearby settlements or into full-fledged settlements of their own.

Trump’s Mideast team is led by figures with close ties to the settler movement. His ambassador to Israel, for instance, recently told the New York Times that Israel has the “right” to annex some of the West Bank. Both critics and supporters of the settlements say the White House’s friendly attitude has encouraged a jump in settlement activity.

Peace Now said the government has retroactively authorized 15 outposts this year and seeks to approve 35 more as part of what it called a major expansion of West Bank settlements.

“Law enforcement authorities ignore the theft of the land and in effect abet this activity,” Peace Now said. “Settlers see this correctly as an incentive to build more outposts.”

The Defense Ministry and COGAT, the defense body responsible for civil affairs in the West Bank, did not respond to requests for comment.