Pending approval by a ministerial committee, the move eases settlement planning and construction procedures, legalizes outpost building, and makes lax West Bank property purchasing laws.
The announcement comes as Netanyahu gears up for early elections he called for this month, which analysts have deemed a sure victory for the incumbent. Netanyahu is running for a second re-election, something that has only been achieved so far by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.
The report’s committee, known as the Levy committee after the former Supreme Court judge who headed it, was appointed by Netanyahu in January 2012 to investigate the legal status of unauthorized West Bank settlements.
It concludes that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is not an occupation, and that all Israeli settlements are legal under international law, findings that fly in the face of a consensus by most in the international community, notably the EU, that deems all Israeli settlements illegal. Netanyahu, however, has refrained from upholding political aspects of the report, restricting his endorsement to operational parts.
Israeli settlements have been responsible for consuming an overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of resources, greatly impoverishing indigenous Palestinians who are currently in the throes of fiscal crisis. Settlers also routinely harass and lethally assault Palestinians, oftentimes under the protection of the Israeli army.
Israel’s opposition has been up in arms about Netanyahu’s endorsement, arguing that it will only further isolate Israel from the international community.