With West Focused On Iran, Netanyahu Moves To Expand Israeli Settlements [View all]
By Ben Lynfield, Correspondent / April 12, 2012
Ulpana Outpost, West Bank
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is moving to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank at a time when international attention is focused elsewhere, with President Obama gearing up for reelection and the West targeting Iran's nuclear program.
Last week, the Netanyahu government took a variety of steps that, taken together, amount to a significant strengthening of Israel's hold in the West Bank, the biblically resonant territory occupied in 1967, which Palestinians claim as the heartland for their future state.
For Netanyahu, who heads a right-wing coalition with a strong pro-settler contingent, it was a delicate dance of one small step back and six larger steps forward for settlements.
On April 4, the prime minister backed the evacuation of a house illegally occupied by settlers in the flashpoint city of Hebron, endorsing his attorney general's position that there was no legal argument for approving the settler takeover. That angered some among his hard-line constituency, including Danny Dayan, head of the Yesha Council that represents 300,000 settlers. ''It is intolerable that Jews cannot exercise their property rights simply because they are Jews,'' Dayan says.