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The report on the outposts that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon requisitioned from attorney Talia Sasson reveals what was known by all, including Sharon, about the round-about way in which state funds make their way to the settlements with the help of ministers and officials working on behalf of the settlers' lobby. For years, it was difficult to pinpoint the exact clauses in the budget that facilitate the prosperity of the settlements and their expansion into what are known as "the illegal outposts." Publicly, ministers voiced discontent with their existence; behind the scenes, however, their ministries continued to allocate infrastructure, money, structures and soldiers to facilitate their hold on the land.

The outposts were, from the very beginning, an illusory plan designed to maintain the settlement drive in the territories without declaring this in public. The concept, "outpost," just like the term, "stronghold," which was used in the 1970s, was intended to create the impression that the settlement in question was a temporary one of a security nature. The true intention was always to create a settlement continuum that would prevent the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state.

If there is one thing that the Sasson report teaches us more than anything, it is the fact that the game is up, and the era of settlement establishment has finally come to an end. The reason for this is that the principal patron of the settlement movement became prime minister, and began taking world public opinion into consideration.

Sharon requisitioned the report on the outposts not to learn something he hadn't known before, but to minimize the damage and in an effort to divert discussion away from the fate of the settlements in general and onto the outposts only. But, apparently, this too won't do any good. The insistent demand from Washington to afford the Palestinian state to be established with "territorial contiguity" that will not be hampered by settlements, coupled with the fact that George Bush and Condoleezza Rice make sure of mentioning this expression at every opportunity, will lead in the end to the evacuation of all the settlements that get in the way of acceptable contiguity.

In all likelihood, the State of Israel's eastern border will be a lot closer to the Green Line than it believes. The difference between the terms, "settlement" and "outpost," will turn out to be a myth, relating more to the internal dialogue of self-deception that has been going on in Israel for years. The map of the final peace deal with the Palestinians is not tied to this misleading terminology. An outpost is a settlement in the making. The outposts are all the settlements established since Israel undertook not to establish more settlements.

The Sasson report should be treated, first and foremost, as study material that could help government ministries find the loopholes through which money is channeled by officials to places that deviate from the ministries' policies. If the report raises criminal suspicions with regard to civil servants who abused their positions, these individuals should be indicted so that others won't be swayed to appease the politicians at the expense of the public in the future. Indictments will presumably lead to the exposure of the deception in its entirety - something the left has been warning about for years.

More so than anything, the Sasson report should be seen as the beginning of a new era. The timing of the evacuation of the outposts - before or after the disengagement - pertains primarily to the operational ability of the police and army to deal with their evacuation now, and is not the main issue.