Nearly three-quarters of the 102 outposts in the West Bank - 74 percent - are at least partly built on private Palestinian land, according to a survey by the Peace Now settlement monitoring team.

The survey found that 6,986 dunams of land used for outposts - 43 percent of all the land on which outposts are built - are private Palestinian property. An additional 7.6 percent of the area on which the outposts are built is territory whose recognition as state lands is pending.

Private Palestinian property accounts for between 40 percent and 70 percent of the land on which 30 of the outposts are built, including West Tapuah, Givat Hahish, Haroeh and Mitzpeh Dani, according to the survey.

"The data shows that contrary to the false impression the setters are trying to make, most of the outposts are built fully or partially on Palestinian land, which has been recognized even by the state," Dror Etkes, the head of the monitoring team, said Thursday. Etkes called construction on these lands "highway robbery."

"The removal of the outposts, and punishment of the people responsible for their construction, will bring Israel somewhat closer to the level of a country in which the rule of law prevails," Etkes said.

Emily Amrusi, a spokeswoman for the Yesha Council of settlements, said the report was "a total lie based on a false data base unconnected with reality. From the start, 75 percent of the outposts hold a few thousand dunams. All the outposts except for a few are on state lands. Those on private lands are in the process of being purchased."

Etkes warned that he would petition the High Court of Justice if, as reported, Defense Minister Amir Peretz decides to turn the Givat Assaf outpost into an army base after the residents are evacuated.

The Sasson Report on outposts stated that "the establishment of outposts on private Palestinian lands is absolutely prohibited," and that such construction "can in certain circumstances constitute a criminal act."

Sasson also wrote that such construction was first and foremost "a serious affront on an individual's property rights" and that "the establishment of an outpost on private Palestinian land cannot by authorized, even retrospectively." According to Sasson, the outposts should be dismantled, "the sooner the better."