State Admits Politics Are Preventing Evacuation of Outposts

The State of Israel announced yesterday for the first time - in an official document - that political considerations such as the upcoming general elections are preventing the evacuation of illegal outposts, including those that have been established on private land taken from Palestinians.

The comments are included in the state prosecution's response to a High Court of Justice petition filed by the Peace Now movement regarding the illegal West Bank outposts Harsha and Yuval. The document says that in addition to its central legal argument, that the High Court does not tend to get involved in political issues and law enforcement, other factors include "the political circumstances prevailing at this time, mainly the fact that a real possibility exists that general elections will be held within about four months."

"The question of the feasibility of implementing the demolition orders and determining the priorities for implementing the demolition orders are subject, among other things, to political considerations," the state said. In another section, it cited "planning, political and other considerations."

The petitioners said yesterday that political considerations should have sped up the outpost evacuation, not slowed it down, since the road map, which the government has adopted, obligated Israel to evacuate the outposts by May 2003. The government decision this March to adopt the Sasson report on illegal outposts also obligates it to have evacuated at least six of them, for which all appeal proceedings have been completed.

Dror Etkes, who heads Peace Now's settlement monitoring unit, said that instead of evacuating hundreds of illegal structures, the state is sending its prosecutors to defend its ongoing failures regarding everything related to its basic obligation to enforce the law equally.

The state prosecution said the High Court does not customarily intervene in ownership issues with political significance, including Israeli settlements.

Meanwhile, Civil Administration officials recently met to formulate principles regarding the supervision and enforcement policy in the West Bank, and have given their conclusions to the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and the defense minister, and are awaiting their response. These principles are intended to increase the efficiency of the authorities' supervisory and enforcement activities.

In response to an article published in yesterday's Haaretz on the government's rejection of key Sasson report recommendations about enforcing the law in the territories, the Justice Ministry spokesman pointed out yesterday that the report said the existing legislation appears sufficient for evacuating the outposts.