Israeli Push to Legalize Settlements in West Bank ‘Dangerous and Reckless,’ US Says

Israeli Push to Legalize Settlements in West Bank ‘Dangerous and Reckless,’ US Says

WASHINGTON – Legalizing settler outposts in the Israeli-occupied West Bank would be “dangerous and reckless,” the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday in response to reports Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was pushing to do so.

Times of Israel reported that Smotrich wanted to begin the process of legalizing 68 illegal outposts in the West Bank, calling it “one of the most dramatic expansions” for the settlement movement in decades.

“These reports about directives to support illegal outposts in the West Bank, we believe that to be dangerous and reckless,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a daily briefing.

The U.S. opposes the settlements and believes they violate international law, he said. Washington “will continue to urge Israeli officials to refrain from taking actions to fund outposts that have long been illegal under Israeli law,” the State Department spokesperson said.

Israel has settled the West Bank extensively since 1967, viewing it as the biblical Judea and Samaria and critical to Israel’s security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promoted settlement growth, which the U.S. has criticized.

The settlements have eaten up West Bank land where Palestinians have long aimed to establish an independent state that would also include the Gaza Strip and have East Jerusalem as its capital.

Washington imposed sanctions on Friday on an ally of Israel’s far-right national security minister and two entities that raised money for Israeli men accused of settler violence.

On Israel’s potential Rafah offensive, Patel said Washington’s concerns have not yet been fully addressed. “When it comes to military operation in Rafah, there needs to be a serious credible plan,” he said.

Israel’s military is poised to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah and assault Hamas hold-outs in the southern Gaza Strip city, a senior Israeli defense official said on Wednesday, despite international warnings of humanitarian catastrophe.

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