Justice Ministry Rejects Recommendations of Sasson Report

The Justice Ministry and security officials have rejected several fundamental recommendations of the Sasson report on illegal outposts, which are meant to prevent more outposts from being established and impose deterrent sentences on those who establish them.

The Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed that the ministry, along with the legal adviser for the West Bank, decided that four out of eight proposed amendments to security legislation "are not necessary due to various legal reasons." Talia Sasson, the attorney who compiled the report, said she was surprised by the decision. The rest of the proposals, meanwhile, have yet to be implemented. The ministry spokesman said the security establishment was dealing with them.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asked for the outpost report. He is required by the road map to halt construction in the West Bank and dismantle all outposts established since March 2001. In his Likud resignation announcement, Sharon said the road map would be the sole basis of his new party's political platform.

The government's March 10 decision to adopt the Sasson report made the security establishment, in coordination with the Justice Ministry, responsible for "examining and formulating as soon as possible the amendments necessary in security legislation" and "present the new legislation to the special ministerial committee for implementing the report."

The committee, headed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, was required to submit its recommendations within 90 days. As a result of the disengagement plan, the committee received an extension, but that deadline passed more than three months ago. Security officials confirm reports that construction in illegal outposts has continued since the report was released and said that in some of the outposts, caravans have made way for permanent housing.

The following recommendations have been rejected:

* Set a specific sentence for violating the law on unauthorized structures. The sentence must include significant jail time and a heavy fine.

* No authorization will be given for a caravan unless the applicant also presents a building permit that has been issued for the specific caravan in the target location, an aerial photograph of the intended caravan site, a detailed plan for the establishment of the caravan that is signed by the municipal engineer of the local authority where the caravan will go and a statement explaining the need for a caravan. The applicant must also put up a guarantee for 18 months to ensure that the caravan is placed in the target location described in the application and remains there.

* Require any construction that takes place outside the jurisdiction of a regional or local authority to be approved by the defense minister. (Current regulations require approval from the political echelon only for construction in areas that fall under the jurisdiction of such authorities.)

* Require any West Bank land purchases by Israelis to be approved by the head of the Civil Administration, in writing.

Sasson defended the importance of all four recommendations.

"Within the outposts, I pointed out that the caravans constitute a central means of illegal construction in the territories, including setting up outposts within hours," Sasson said, adding that imposing limits on authorizations for caravans is meant to ensure that caravans brought into the West Bank are not placed in illegal outposts.

Regarding the proposed requirement that political officials approve construction, she said: "I wrote in the report that political approval of construction plans in the territories is essential in that it has political significance."

Ophir Pines-Paz and Isaac Herzog, Labor Party representatives in the ministerial committee for implementing the Sasson report, said they did not know that the Justice Ministry had rejected four recommendations until they were informed by Haaretz.

"This is another nail in the coffin of the Sasson report," said Pines-Paz, adding that he plans to add the topic to the Knesset agenda. He pointed out that as part of the first phase of the road map, Israel has committed to freezing settlement construction and dismantling illegal outposts.

Herzog said he was surprised that the jurists were ignoring the need to close the holes in law enforcement procedures relating to illegal outposts, which he described as the heart of the Sasson report. He said rejecting the recommendations would abet the law-breakers.