The Israeli recent decision to legalize three West Bank outposts has ignited fresh controversy, with critics arguing that this move only exacerbates tensions in the region. The outposts, namely Avigayil, Asahel, and Beit Hoglah, were granted municipal boundaries, effectively transforming them into settlements by the Israeli occupation. However, this move is not recognized by the international community, which overwhelmingly views all Israeli settlements as illegal.
The decision to legitimize these outposts came after Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, the head of the Israeli military Central Command, signed off on orders designating their municipal boundaries for the first time.
Avigayil, one of the newly legalized settlements, currently boasts 48 housing units on 85 dunams of Palestinian land. Its expanded municipal boundaries now encompass a total of 202 dunams. Asahel, in the Hebron Hills area, previously occupied 61 dunams of Palestinian land with 71 housing units, but its boundary jurisdiction will now extend to a massive 880 dunams, making it 14 times its original size. Meanwhile, Beit Hoglah, situated in the northern Dead Sea region of the occupied West Bank, sits on 37 dunams of Palestinian land. Illegally established in 2001, it faced demolition orders for all 22 housing units, which are now expected to be rescinded as the outpost becomes formally legalized by the Israeli occupation.
Critics argue that this move is part of a broader effort by the Israeli government to annex the West Bank, a deeply contentious issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace Now, a settlement watchdog organization, condemned the decision, accusing the far-right Israeli government of promoting further settlements that harm Palestinians. In a statement, they noted, “Not only is the State of Israel promoting more settlements, which do great damage to Israelis and Palestinians, it is also giving each settlement a huge and disproportionate area for its boundary jurisdiction.”
Furthermore, they warned that this action could lead to the entrenchment of apartheid-like conditions in the West Bank. “Anyone who opposes the regime coup must oppose this process that will lead us to the end of the State of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state,” the statement concluded.
The move to legalize these outposts is part of promises made by the Israeli government to the far-right Religious Zionism party in coalition agreements. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who leads Religious Zionism, has played a key role in drawing up the municipal boundaries for these outposts, further fueling criticism from international observers.
As reported by the Israeli human rights organization Peace Now, the Israeli government has unveiled intentions to construct an additional 12,885 housing units in the West Bank and Jerusalem. These plans come against the backdrop of existing illegal settlements and outposts, with estimates suggesting that over 700,000 settlers currently reside in more than 250 settlements and outposts throughout the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
As the Israeli government moves forward with this controversial decision, it faces increasing scrutiny and condemnation from the international community and human rights groups, which continues to call for a just resolution to the Palestinian issue.