Before Biden Takes Office, Israeli Lawmakers Push to ‘Legalize’ Settlements

A group of right-Wing Knesset Members want the government to take advantage of the last few weeks of the Trump administration to legalize 70 communities where 20,000 people live.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

The “Land of Israel Caucus” of 36 Knesset members called on Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu to take advantage of the last few weeks of the Trump administration to legalize 70 settlement outposts in Judea and Samaria that are home to 20,000 people.

The right-wing legislators who signed a petition Tuesday included Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett, whose party had been strengthening in public opinion polls over the past several months.

President Trump is expected to end his term in the White House in eight weeks and the caucus wants to take full advantage of the days the American president has left in office, given Trump’s paradigm-shattering support for Israel during his term.

The MKs plan to put pressure on Netanyahu by calling on Trump to act “to establish facts on the ground” before he leaves. While most of the outposts are on state land, Netanyahu shelved his plans to impose sovereignty over settlement blocks in Judea and Samaria in favor of peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Biden administration’s will almost certainly be opposed to any Israeli moves in Judea and Samaria, so any attempt at legalizing some or all of the outposts could cause tensions with the new administration in Washington.

In their petition, the Knesset members stated that they were united in their position that the legalization of the outposts “is the order of the day” and that “it is not fair, reasonable or responsible to leave the settlements without status and their tens of thousands of residents deprived of their rights.”

The signatories included caucus chairman Haim Katz of the Likud, as well as Likud MK and former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat, who along with Bennett has aspirations of eventually replacing the 71-year-old Netanyahu when he eventually retires.

During his tenure in the White House, Trump fulfilled outstanding legislation from Congress and moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the city as Israel’s capital.

He also recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic Golan Heights, backed Israel at the United Nations, pulled the U.S. out of the “horrible” Iran Nuclear Deal, and cut off funding to the Palestinian Authority after it refused to stop paying stipends to convicted terrorists.

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