Feb. 4 (UPI) — Israel agreed Sunday to recognize a previously unauthorized West Bank outpost as an official settlement following the killing of one of its residents last month.
The Cabinet unanimously approved Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s proposal to evacuate and reestablish the settlement of Havat Gilad after one of its settlers, Rabbi Raziel Shevach, was killed during a drive-by shooting on a West Bank highway on January 9.
“The government will provide the status of Havat Gilad in order to facilitate orderly life there. For the murderers — we will exact justice. To those who sanctify death, we will sanctify life,” said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman said the move to recognize Havat Gilad is “only a technical decision” meant to legalize an existing settlement and not establish a new one.
“There is no intention to expand and to annex privately-owned Palestinian lands but only to legalize the existing settlement after the murder [of Rabbi Shevach] and to connect it to water and electricity as well as make it accessible for humanitarian reasons,” Braverman added.
Havat Gilad is made up of lands privately owned by Jews, undeveloped lands that belong to the state and undefined land in the West Bank area which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Most countries deem any official or unofficial settlements in the land, which Palestinians want for a future state, to be illegal. Israel disputes these claims.
Peace Now, an anti-occupation group, condemned the decision to legalize the outpost as contrary to establishing peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“Legalizing Havat Gilad is a new height of groveling before settlers,” the group said. “By legalizing Havat Gilad, an isolated outpost deep within the West Bank, the government is harming the chance for two states and rewarding land-stealing felons.”
Netanyahu said the decision wasn’t intended to provoke conflict.
“We are not bent on war, but we will do whatever is necessary to defend ourselves,” he said.