The latest wave of terror attacks and the siege of the Muqata has once again shoved the subject of the illegal outposts in the territories from the political and security agenda. A few weeks after Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer announced his intention to begin an accelerated campaign to remove the outposts, MKs from the left and Peace Now activists are reporting the existence of new outposts established illegally in the West Bank.
A visit by them yesterday to the Mt. Hebron area revealed two new settlements in the area. In addition, a settlement that the defense minister's office had reported was dismantled three months ago, was discovered. According to their data, as opposed to the official announcements, so far only five illegal outposts have been dismantled so far. It is impossible to define the outposts and the government's indifference to their expansion as anything other than a crime, sabotaging the already meager chances to return to the path of dialogue. The outposts are a signal to the Palestinians that Israel does not intend to end the occupation and reach an agreement. They encourage the extremists and slacken the grip of the moderates among the Palestinians.
In early September, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Haim Ramon, claimed that the defense minister was concealing reports about the outposts from the committee. One of those reports, prepared in the Central Command and reported in the press, named 105 outposts that were established without approval. Ramon claimed that the defense establishment's avoidance of presenting the data to the committee raises suspicions that it is an attempt to hide from public view the full extent of the phenomenon and to conceal the tremendous burden the outposts place on the Israel Defense Forces.
Ben-Eliezer has since reiterated that he is constantly busy with the issue of dismantling the outposts and promised that the subject would be brought to the government for discussion. But it turns out that in the matter of the illegal outposts, which appeared to be a reason for the Labor Party to force a coalition crisis, its leaders concede their principles for the sake of continued participation in the government.
The continuing helplessness in the face of the expansion of the illegal outposts stands out starkly against the background of the many resources the government is investing in the separation fence, defending the settlements established with its approval, and the roads to them. At the same time it endangers the lives of its soldiers in the defense of those outposts built without government approval. In this way, of course, it also increases suspicions about the government's motives and goals.
The prime minister and his partners from the right wing do not accept the concept that the settlements are an obstacle to peace and reconciliation. They do not hide their attachment to the settlers and continue to shower them with sympathy and resources. No wonder, then, that they accept the expansion of the outposts. Their responsibility for the crime is clear. Regrettably, the Labor Party's leader refuses to use his authority as defense minister to enforce the rule of law. Thus, he turns himself into an accomplice to the crime.
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