Israel's Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked on Wednesday announced the creation of a committee that would "address the legal status of West Bank lands" in order to potentially legalize Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, which are currently termed unlawful under international law.
Shaked, a member of the pro-settlement, nationalist Jewish Home party, said that she would help secure the legal status of Jewish settlers residing in the occupied West Bank territory.
"There are many areas in Judea and Samaria where the status is unregulated," she said, using the official Israeli term for West Bank, Newsweek reported. "The time has come to dispel the legal fog and to enable the residents of Judea and Samaria—most of them in settlements set up by generations of Israeli governments—to stop worrying about the constant threat to the very ownership of their homes."
The establishment of the committee was previously agreed upon in a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party and the Jewish Home party, the Times of Israel reported.
The move comes amid sustained criticism from Israel's Western allies. The European Union this week agreed to keep pushing for products manufactured in West Bank settlements to be labeled as such, and also heard a proposal from a think tank to identify Israeli banks, charities and financial institutions affiliated with the settlements. The think tank reportedly argued that the EU was breaching its own laws and called for it to firmly separate its dealings with Israel from Israel's activities in the West Bank by targeting the country's financial sector.
The latest decision follows Tuesday's reports that Israel was set to authorize the construction of almost 900 new homes in the occupied West Bank, ending an unofficial moratorium declared last year.
The new panel will begin its work this week. It is reportedly expected to rule on settlements on a case-by-case basis rather than a sweeping ruling about the legality of the West Bank settlements.
A 2013 United Nations Human Rights Council report said that Israel had repeatedly violated international law through its settlement policy and called for the removal of all settlers and an end to "all settlement activities without preconditions."
Israel has accused the European governments of discriminatory policies, and argued that they encourage the activist-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the Middle East country.