World

On eve of Kerry visit, watchdog group accuses Israel of trying to legalize settlement outposts

Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian man during clashes that erupted during a rally marking Nakba Day in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Palestinians annually mark the "nakba," or "catastrophe" — the term they use to describe their defeat and displacement in the war that followed Israel's founding in 1948. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Israeli security forces detain a Palestinian man during clashes that erupted during a rally marking Nakba Day in Jerusalem, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Palestinians annually mark the "nakba," or "catastrophe" — the term they use to describe their defeat and displacement in the war that followed Israel's founding in 1948. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)  (The Associated Press)

An Israeli watchdog group is accusing the government of taking steps to legalize four unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank, days before the U.S. secretary of state is set to arrive on a new peace mission.

The Israeli government announced its move this week in a court filing which could cast a shadow over Secretary John Kerry's visit. Kerry has been shuttling between Israel and the Palestinians in recent months in hopes of restarting peace talks.

Negotiations have been frozen for the past four years, in large part because of Palestinian opposition to Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands.

The anti-settlement group Peace Now is pushing the government to demolish six unauthorized outposts. In its response, the government indicated it is looking into ways to legalize four of them.