Report Warns Against Proposal for Funding of W. Bank Outposts

Author of report: Approval of Justice Ministry proposal would violate PM's commitments to U.S.

The author of a highly influential government report on illegal outposts in the West Bank has recently warned the government against approving a new justice ministry proposal that would allow state funding for outposts, Haaretz has learned.

In her letter to the Ministerial Committee on Unauthorized Outposts - a panel which was formed to implement her report on the subject - Tali Sasson says the proposal would constitute "a clear and immediate violation of the prime minister's prior commitments to the president of the United States."

The ministry's proposal, which will come up for discussion in 10 days, advocates cementing Jewish ownership of land that is owned by Palestinians, Sasson said. She also criticized what she called "allowing state funding for illegal outposts." The proposal was drafted in consultation with various parties, including settler and political leaders. One of these leaders was Avigdor Lieberman, who is a member of the committee on outposts and leader of Yisrael Beiteinu.

Political analysts anticipate the committee to vote in favor of the proposal. Kadima's members of the committee - Vice Premier Haim Ramon, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter and Minister for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee Jacob Edery - are expected to vote in favor.

"The proposal clearly conflicts with the report's findings and recommendations, and does not agree with the government's decision to form the ministerial committee in March 2005," Sasson wrote in her letter - a copy of which was sent to Attorney General Menachem Mazuz's office.

"The proposal only appears to keep with the spirit of the document. But by stating exceptions to the rules put forth in the report, the proposal suggests turning the exception into the rule and vice versa," Sasson recently told the committee.

A major contention for Sasson is a clause stating that settlements would be allowed to realize old building plans that have been approved by former governments. "This allows expanding settlements by a letting them form a new 'neighborhood' several kilometers away from the main settlement," Sasson says. "These so-called neighborhoods will in fact become new settlements."

According to Sasson, by approving the proposal the government runs the risk of losing grip on settlements. "The minister who will be asked to vote on this will not know how many settlements we're talking about, where they will spring up and how many people will live there."

"We have a whole generation's worth of experience that shows how interested parties have used an exception and every crack. This was done extensively and in an uncontrolled manner," Sasson said. She also protested against the intention of granting the Israel Defense Forces the ability to determine what would constitute a new neighborhood or expansion of an existing one.

"These definitions have distinct political ramifications, and it is not within our interests to involve professional levels in decisions that have such a political flavor," Sasson went on to say.

In her letter, Sasson made a point of stressing that in order to form new settlements, the settlers should obtain the permission of the presiding government, and not the resolutions of governments that came from the circumstances that pertained to the 1970s.

"The committee, under the new proposal, would be allowed to enable the settlers to build in illegal settlements without regulating their legal status - thereby laundering illegal construction in the West Bank," Sasson argued.