Ya'alon Calls on State to Drop 'Illegal' Qualifier From Outposts

Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon attacked the State Prosecution yesterday during a tour by four ministers of illegal West Bank outposts.

"I saw that the prosecution's responses to the High Court of Justice [on petitions against the outposts] do not reflect the government's position," he said while visiting the Havat Gilad outpost. "I hope this situation will be corrected."

Asked how this disconnect is possible, he replied, "it comes to the prosecution from the Defense Ministry, which is used to carrying out the previous government's policy."

"We need to eradicate the term 'illegal outposts,'" Ya'alon added. "These are communities that were established with the state's encouragement, yet the legal definition has made them illegal."

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who was also on the tour, made similar comments.

"Every community that the government established and financed is legal," he said. "We have to speak the truth: It is impossible to say this is illegal."

"Honing" this message, he added, is the best way to combat a highly critical report on the outposts prepared a few years ago by government attorney Talia Sasson.

Both ministers were responding to settler complaints that whenever leftist organizations petition the High Court against an outpost, the prosecution replies that the outpost is indeed illegal and that demolition orders have been issued against it.

"With responses like that, the court isn't left with any room to decide," noted Pinchas Wallerstein, secretary general of the Yesha Council of settlements.

The settlers argued that instead, the state should say the outposts were in the middle of the approval process and would receive final approval soon. That, they said, would deter petitioners from even going to court, lest by so doing they actually hasten the approval process.

Ya'alon said he had discussed this issue with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who promised that Defense Minister Ehud Barak would look into it.

Associates of Barak responded that the minister's policy is to "uphold the law," both on the ground and in responses to the High Court.

The ministers also visited the ruins of Homesh, one of four northern West Bank settlements evacuated (along with the entire Gaza Strip) under the 2005 disengagement. There, Ya'alon gave a brief lecture on the strategic importance of the site, from which much of Israel is visible.

"There is no doubt that the disengagement gave a tailwind not only to terror, but also to jihadist Islam," he added. "The withdrawals strengthened the jihadists. We also saw from Fatah's convention [earlier this month] that it has not given up the 'phased plan' [for Israel's destruction]."

Asked whether Israel should therefore return to Homesh, Ya'alon said, "we need to consider it." Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz added that Jews have a right to live anywhere in the Land of Israel, while Information and Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein said he hoped to see the first settlers returning to Homesh under this government.