Peace Now: Building in Illegal Outposts Stepped-up During War

Peace Now CEO: Settlers benefitted from the war twice, government should 'get its act together' and evacuate.

Haaretz Service
Nadav Shragai
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According to Israel Radio, the Peace Now organization reports that building in illegal outposts in the West Bank was accelerated during the war in Lebanon.

31 outposts have seen expansion and infrastructure works and 12 outposts have even seen the construction of permanent buildings, according to Peace Now's bi-annual report.

Peace Now leaders now demand the Defense Minister Amir Peretz live up to his promise to evacuate illegal outposts.

Peretz had promised to tackle the problem of illegal outposts in the summer of 2006.

Israel Defense Forces and the police had already prepared for the evacuation by force of five outposts which had been labeled as "particularly problematic," Israel Radio reported. The plans were put on hold when war broke out in the north.

The report by Peace Now, whose representatives have been tracking and documenting developments in the outposts, indicates that the opposite has occurred - the outposts are growing, expanding and becoming established.

Peace now reported expansion works in 31 outposts where new mobile homes, roads and infrastructure were being laid out.

The organization further reported the construction of permanent buildings in 12 outposts, including those in Bnei Kedem, Neveh Erez, Palgei Mayim, and near Itamar.

Peace Now CEO Yariv Oppenheimer said that while all attention was focused on the war in the north, outpost building was accelerated.

"The settlers benefited from the war in the north - first, they were awarded the postponement in evacuation and convergence plans, and second, they were just able to bring in more mobile homes, pave roads, set out additional new roads, and expand the outposts," Oppenheimer said. "We hope that the government will get its act together and return to the original plans to evacuate all outposts and not let the settlers continue 'partying.'"

The report revealed that more than 3,500 housing units are currently being built in West Bank settlements, compared to 4,144 units that were being built at the same time last year.

In addition, the construction of two roads - the Tekoa-Jerusalem road and the Ma'aleh Adumim-Jericho road (in the section east of Kfar Adumim) - has recently been resumed.

Administrative work towards the evacuation of outposts continues in the security establishment.

On the ground, more than 40 structures have received destruction orders, but settlers who have already received evacuation orders, often more than once, remain in the outposts and continue expanding them.

Not long ago, the GOC Central Command signed an order expanding the jurisdiction of four settlements: Givat Ze'ev, Oranit, Beitar Ilit and Maskiot.

The construction is taking place mainly in the settlement blocs of Beitar Ilit, Ma'aleh Adumim, Modi'in Ilit and Alfei Menashe.

Foreign Minster Tzipi Livni in a holiday interview has stressed the importance of an immediate evacuation of outposts. Peretz made similar statements when he entered the office of defense minister.

There is no preparation on the ground for an upcoming evacuation. Such an order, which would likely cause friction between security forces and the settlers, is awaiting a decision from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.