Olmert: Road Map Does Not Stop Israel From 'Other Lawful Activities'

Israel's obligations to freeze settlement construction under the road map does not prevent it from engaging in "other lawful activities," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the ministers of defense, housing and agriculture in a letter.

"There is nothing preventing other lawful activities," he wrote.

The letter, which Haaretz obtained, states that founding and expanding settlements, drafting plans, issuing tenders, appropriating land and other such activities require advance approval from the prime minister and the defense minister.

It is not clear from the wording of the letter whether this permits the implementation of building plans already approved by the cabinet and security authorities.

Thousands of residential units that had been approved by previous governments were "in the pipeline," Civil Administration head Yoav Mordechai reported about two months ago, during a meeting of the ministerial committee on the implementation of Talia Sasson's report on illegal outposts.

Sasson said last night in response that the letter's ambiguous wording could be interpreted in a manner that contradicts the government's obligation to freeze settlement building. She added that three years after the ministerial committee was appointed, the prime minister could be expected to bring about a cabinet resolution, rather than making do with partial, ambiguous directives.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved a resolution prohibiting thousands of Palestinians from moving freely on a road in the southern West Bank because of the outpost Naguhot. According to the Sasson report, Naguhot did not receive cabinet approval and its "security road" invades private Palestinian-owned land.

While discussing an Association of Civil Rights in Israel petition a few months ago, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch sought to determine whether the defense minister supported the decision to close the Beit Awa-Dura road because of the outpost. After consulting with Barak, the State Prosecutor's Office announced this weekend that Barak approved restricting movement on the road even though Naguhot was designated as an unapproved outpost prior to the decision.

ACRI claims that area residents have used the road for decades, and that its closure to Palestinians will affect their economic, commercial and familial ties, and their access to services and farmland. Ambulances are often delayed for long periods at the checkpoint.