Knesset Taskforce Formed to Oversee Situation in Settlements

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, the former Yesha Council secretary-general, will head the task force.

A taskforce of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has been established recently in order to oversee the situation in settlements in the occupied territories.

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller , who is the former Yesha Council secretary-general and is known to be on close terms with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, will head the task force.

The task force will deal with civilian issues concerning the settlements, such as the separation fence, outposts, and the controversial Shehuda street in Hebron, Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzahi Hangebi said.

Task forces and sub-committees of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee are considered to be some of the most important and prestigious bodies in the Knesset. Leaks from these task forces are rare, and so the security forces tend to cooperate a great deal.

The new task force will include Likud MK Silvan Shalom, Labor MK Matan Vilnai, Meretz MK Ran Cohen, Shas MK Shlomo Benizri, Kadima MK Amira Dotan and National Union MK Zvi Hendel.

Schneller has distributed the task force's work plan for the upcoming summer Knesset session, which includes the "fortress" project for the protection of settlements, Talya Sasson and Baruch Spiegel's report on outposts and settlements, a tour and analysis of the situation on Shehuda street in Hebron, the Defense Ministry's policy on the daily lives of Palestinians, the separation fence near Upper Modiin and the question of passageways alongside the seperation fence.

"There are a lot of subjects related to Judea and Samaria that require an indepth analysis which the committee is incapable of doing.", Hanegbi explained.

Likud MK Yuval Steinitz who heads a sub-committee of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Israel's alertness commended the formation of the taskforce, stating that "it will enable me to focus on issues such as defending the Israeli public against missile attacks".

Meretz MK Ran Cohen said he very much wanted to be a part of the taskforce so he could "supervise what the settlements were doing."

Head of the "Peace Now" organization Yariv Openheimer said in response that "the appointment of Schneller as the head of the committee is inappropriate and plays right into the lawbreakers hands. Tzahi Hangbi is allowing the cat to guard the milk - and legitimize the illegal outposts."