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Israel's West Bank zoning committee defies national government, rejects request to legalize settlement

In an unprecedented move, a local Israeli government overruled Defense Minister Ehud Barak's request to annex the Sansana settlement.

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Demonstrators pack the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel on Sept, 3, 2011 . (Uriel Sinai/AFP/Getty Images)

A local Israeli government rejected a national proposal to legalize a West Bank settlement, Haaretz reported. This is the first time that the local agency has overruled its own boss.

In 2009, Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved a plan to develop 440 homes at the Sansana settlement on the West Bank, Israel National News reported.  But Israel had already promised the United States that it would not legalize anymore settlements. To avoid violating that promise, the Israeli government instead presented the Sansana settlement as "an extension of nearby Eshkolot."

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Residents of the nearby Palestinian village of Ramadin rejected the plan, Haaretz said. In a formal objection submitted with Peace Now and other activist groups,  the villagers complained that there were enough differences between Sansana and Eshkolot that they should not be considered the same settlement.

Israel's Civil Administration Higher Planning Committee sided with the villagers today. Not only did the zoning committee agree that Sansana should not be annexed to Israeli settlers, but it also ruled that it is illegal to annex outposts to existing settlements. In a more defiant remark, committee chairman Shlomo Moskowitz also said that his committee "is the only body that can approve building plans in the territories, and it does not take dictates from the government," Haaretz reported.

The local government's decision comes after the Israel Defense Ministry came under fire this week for approving another settlement. On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry gave preliminary approval for 600 new homes in the West Bank settlement of Shilo, the Associated Press reported. The move sparked heavy criticism from Palestinians, the United States, the European Union and Israeli human rights groups such as Peace Now. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120224/israels-west-bank-zoning-committee-def