JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said illegal outposts must be razed, rankling members of his coalition.
"The settlement movement is important to everyone and to me as well," Netanyahu said Monday at a Likud Party faction meeting. "However, our efforts must focus on strengthening our existing settlements and not battling the law."
He reiterated that outposts must not be built on privately owned Palestinian land, which is illegal.
"We will continue preserving the settlements as well as the law, and there is no contradiction between the two," he said.
Netanyahu reminded his coalition that last week he ordered the acceleration of construction of 2,000 homes in the West Bank. He noted that the areas where the construction will occur are certain to remain under Israeli sovereignty in an eventual peace agreement with the Palestinians.
In response to the prime minister’s comments on razing outposts, Knesset member Arye Eldad of the National Union Party warned of the consequences of the army taking action.
It will make the government “long for Amona I,” Eldad was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post, a reference to clashes between settlers and Israeli soldiers that erupted in 2006 when the army destroyed nine of the outpost’s homes.
Netanyahu’s comments come less than a month after he announced that he would establish a panel to examine whether some outposts could be retroactively legalized, either by researching the origin of the land to determine whether it is really owned by Palestinians or by purchasing the land from its Palestinian owners. The panel has not yet been formed.
Several outposts are under threat of court-ordered demolitions in the coming months.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised President George W. Bush in 2003 to destroy about two dozen hilltop outposts, but it has not been done.