Mofaz Violated Cabinet Decision on Illegal Outposts

Cabinet had instructed defense, justice establishment to 'immediately examine and correct security legislation.'

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has contravened for several months a cabinet decision aimed at making it more difficult to establish illegal outposts and easier to punish offenders.

The cabinet decision was taken on March 10 following completion of a report on illegal outposts by former senior state prosecutor Talia Sasson.

In its decision, the cabinet instructed the defense establishment and Justice Ministry "to immediately examine and formulate ways to correct the security legislation as stated in paragraph 12.5 of the report." The cabinet then said the bodies should bring the changes to a special ministerial committee, headed by the justice minister, within 90 days. This period was later extended by another two months, but the suggestions never materialized.

Security sources said the delay serves the interests of extremists among the settlers, including those who had invaded private Palestinian land and attacked senior army officers.

Mofaz also has failed to dismiss his adviser on settlement affairs, Ron Shechner, as Attorney General Menachem Mazuz had demanded. Shechner was implicated by the Sasson report in connection with the illegal outposts.

Mofaz's bureau did not respond to questions from Haaretz last night about the two issues.

Paragraph 12.5 of the Sasson Report, entitled "Reform in Security Legislation," includes a proposal to amend the penal code concerning unauthorized building, by setting a substantial imprisonment and heavy fine as punishment. It proposes that illegal building in the territories be considered a criminal offense, and that the Jordanian Cities, Villages and Buildings Planning Law (Temporary Law 79 of 1966) be amended so that building without a permit is a criminal offense.

It also suggests amending the Jordanian Planning and Building Law so that it require completion of form number 4 (tofes arba), a precondition for connecting any building constructed in Israel to water, electricity and telephone networks. It also proposes amending the Order Concerning Transference of Goods (No. 1252, 1978) and Regulations Concerning Transference of Goods (Caravan Conveyance), to allow confiscation of a caravan placed on the ground or connected to the infrastructure, and removing it without the need for a judicial process, within a fixed time period.

The report further suggests supplementing conditions for a caravan conveyance permit, saying that no conveyance permit may be granted unless a valid building permit to place the caravan in its destination is presented, an aerial photograph of the caravan's destination is presented, a valid detailed plan of the caravan is shown, and written approval is received from the local council engineer assuring that the caravan will be placed according to the plan.

The report calls for legislation granting more extensive powers to handle illegal invaders of private Palestinian property, by amending the Order Concerning Removal of Invaders (1472). Furthermore, it says that the Order Concerning Land Transactions (Judea and Samaria, No. 25, 1967) should be amended so that acquisition of land in the territories by Israeli citizens will require written consent of the Civil Administration head.

Sasson said last night that with suitable effort, it would have been possible to complete the proposed legislation, especially since the military prosecution already had prepared work on some of the issues. She said the legislation was vital to effectively counteract the transfer of caravans to the territories and populating the areas illegally. The lack of legislative reform, as proposed in the report, "makes it difficult to impose the law in the territories," Sasson said.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni Wedmesday refused to comment on charges of Mofaz's contravening the cabinet decision.

Cabinet minister from the Labor Party, meanwhile, decided to take immediate action over evacuating the illegal outposts and to send a message to the prime minister.

"Labor will not remain in the government if we do not soon receive an orderly commitment and concrete plan for the evacuation of outposts," Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz, one of Labor's representatives on the ministerial committee for the report's implementation, said yesterday.

Housing Minister Isaac Herzog said that Livni had promised him this week that the committee was in the final stages of formulating its recommendations. Herzog said that following the Sasson report, he had instructed the stoppage of work on 50 outposts, and that any new connections with the outposts be examined by the attorney general. He said the ministry was demanding money for the use of 400 caravans mentioned in the report until they are returned to the ministry.