JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli committee on Sunday approved a bill that if adopted would legalize outposts built without government permission in the West Bank, territory Palestinians demand for their future state.
It still needs to pass several stages before it can be adopted. A first reading is expected in parliament on Wednesday.
"The state of Israel today began an historic process of regulating the settlements in Judea and Samaria," Cabinet minister Naftali Bennett, head of the pro-settler Jewish Home party, that promoted the bill said, using the biblical names for the West Bank.
The bill was in part meant to stop the looming evacuation of the Amona outpost. The Supreme Court has ruled it was built on private Palestinian land and must be demolished by Dec. 25.
Amona's fate threatens to destabilize Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-line coalition.
Amona is the largest of about 100 West Bank outposts built without permission but generally tolerated by the government. These are in addition to 120 settlements that Israel considers legal.
In 2006, Israeli police demolished nine homes at Amona, setting off clashes pitting settlers and their supporters against police and soldiers. Several dozen trailers have remained.
Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group, condemned the bill calling it "a legal stunt designed to legally sanction takeover of Palestinian land in the West Bank. "
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war and built settlements there soon after. The Palestinians and the international community consider both settlements and outposts illegal or illegitimate and an obstacle to the creation of a Palestinian state.