Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to adopt parts of a controversial report which proposes the government legalise unauthorised settler outposts, Israel's public radio said on Wednesday.
According to the radio, Netanyahu is looking to adopt some of the principles laid out in the so-called Levy report which was put together by three prominent Israeli jurists and presented to the ministerial committee on settlements in July.
The report suggests the government legalise more than 100 wildcat outposts and concludes that Israel is not "a military occupying power," arguing that international law does not prohibit the construction or expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank.
It was roundly denounced by the Palestinians as well as by legal experts.
The radio did not specify exactly which parts the premier was planning to adopt, nor when he would do so, but said it was likely to be put for government approval before the country holds snap elections on January 22.
Netanyahu's office refused to comment on the report.
The international community considers all settlements built in the West Bank and east Jerusalem to be illegal because they are built on territory Israel occupied during the 1967 Six Day War.
But the Israeli government distinguishes between settlements built with all the required permits and outposts set up without them.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak warned that such a step "must be avoided" because it would only deepen Israel's international isolation.
"Adoption of the report would not strengthen settlement in Judaea and Samaria (the West Bank), but would cause political damage to Israel and a deepening of its isolation within the world," he said in a statement.
"Therefore it must be avoided."
When the report was presented in July, Netanyahu reacted cautiously, saying the ministerial committee would discuss it in what was largely interpreted as an attempt to steer clear of an international outcry.
But with elections due in just over three months, Netanyahu had decided to adopt some of the report's conclusions, largely to secure support from some of the hardliners within his own rightwing Likud party, the radio said.
In recent years, the far-right settler lobby led by Moshe Feiglin has made inroads into Netanyahu's ruling party, so any move to adopt the Levy report would weaken that, commentators said.
Transport Minister Yisrael Katz, a Likud member, welcomed the government's "expected decision to adopt this report" telling the radio it would send "a clear message affirming the right of Jews to settle in Judaea and Samaria" and help normalise their presence in the West Bank.
After the report's release in July, some commentators said implementing its conclusions would be tantamount to annexing the West Bank -- a charge which Katz denied.
"No-one has any intention of annexing the Palestinian population," he said.
Commissioned by Netanyahu, the Levy Report not only proposes that the government legalise more than 100 outposts, but more importantly it concludes that Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank is not illegal.
The 89-page document says that while the outposts were built without proper permits, the involvement of government offices and ministries provided "implied agreement" for their construction and that they "can be legalised without the government taking any new decision.".