Netanyahu tells coalition outposts must be razed

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the hackles of many members of his coalition when he said that illegal outposts must be razed.

“The settlement movement is important to everyone and to me as well,” Netanyahu said Monday evening at a Likud 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.

His 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, which has not been done to this day.