Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to execute the “Hell Mary” decision to legalize dozens of illegal perch outposts in the West Bank the day before Biden’s inauguration. He failed.
Why it matters: The outpost’s comprehensive legalization would be a highly provocative move, broadening Israel’s control of the land in the West Bank and reducing the chances of a future peace deal with the Palestinians.
Background: Trump dramatically changed US policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, offering them new legitimacy and giving Israel a free hand in relation to settlement activity.
- The Biden administration is expected to return to traditional American policy, objecting to illegal settlements and further construction.
Driving news: In recent weeks, Netanyahu tried to speed up a number of settlement plans before Biden’s office, knowing it would be more difficult or impossible later.
- Earlier this week, Netanyahu agreed to pass a cabinet-level decision on Defense Minister Benny Gantz to legalize the five outposts and pressurize the grassroots to legalize the over 40s.
- The outpost in question is deep in the West Bank. Some Palestinians are located in isolated areas in an attempt to prevent regional contingency.
- The Settler lobby pressured Netanyahu to legalize the outpost in recent weeks and also lobbied his cabinet ministers.
Netanyahu resisted pressure for a time, But he reversed course as part of his efforts to ensure the support of the Settler lobby before the March elections.
- The Israeli Ministry of Justice opposed the move because Netanyahu’s caretaker government is not allowed to make dramatic decisions before the election.
- The Foreign Ministry was also opposed, arguing that the move would be seen as a provocative and defiant step 24 hours before Biden’s inauguration and would create tension with the new US administration.
- Up to an hour before the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Netanyahu was still pressuring Gantz to agree. Gantz refused and called the move “irresponsible”.
worth noting: Last week, the Israeli government approved plans for 800 new housing units in West Bank settlements – half of them in deep settlements in the West Bank.
- On Tuesday evening, the Land Authority of Israel began marketing the land for the construction of 2,600 new housing units in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
What to see: In the coming days, the Biden administration will have to publicly express its new policy on Israeli settlements. This may ease tensions with the Israeli government.