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Outpost Heads: We're Not Political Fodder to Camouflage Kassams

The ministerial Outposts Committee will convene today, meeting with representatives of Peace Now - which demand immediate destruction of all outposts - and the Yesha Council.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/18/2006, 1:24 PM / Last Update: 6/18/2006, 10:07 AM

The Yesha Council leaders will meet tonight with Defense Minister Amir Peretz.

Peretz has declared that dozens of outposts throughout Yesha, of all sizes and legal statuses, are to be evacuated, removed or destroyed in the near future - possibly beginning two weeks from now .

"If he means to use us as political fodder to distract attention from the Kassams in Sderot," Yesha Council chief Bentzy Lieberman said today, "we won't allow this. But if he has a serious proposal [ to legalize some of them ], we will consider it."

Among the outposts slated for imminent removal are:
* The strategically critical Givat Assaf on the Beit El turnoff, with 14 families
* Givat HaRoeh near Eli, with 17 families
* Ramat Gilad, near Karnei Shomron
* Maaleh Rehavam in eastern Gush Etzion, and
* Mitzpeh Yitzhar - near Yitzhar, with three families and several bachelors. Structures there have been repeatedly demolished. It was most recently destroyed in May 2004, and has since been rebuilt.

There has been talk of a compromise in Givat Assaf, involving the replacement of the families with a military base. The residents say they will not accept such a deal.

Countering the Sasson Report
Lieberman and colleagues will meet with Peretz for the first time since Peretz became Defense Minister just over six weeks ago. In the knowledge that the government's operative strategy for the outposts is based on State Prosecutor Talia Sasson's hostile report of March 2005, they plan to present him with a different picture.

Sasson termed the construction of new communities in Yesha over the years "institutionalized law-breaking," and listed the ways in which the government "closed its eyes and enabled" the establishment of the new settlements. Among the methods used were allowing the construction of a small structure such as an antenna or a farm building, allocating caravans (mobile homes without wheels) and even land for the settlement outposts, then supplying electricity and water, and bringing in families. Various ministries and official bodies gave their own approval to each individual step, but the final approval was rarely given until much later, if at all.

The Yesha Council sees the situation very differently. Pinchas Wallerstein, head of the Binyamin Regional Council, said that in a random check he made, he found that on the average, new communities in Israel received their final approval 8-10 years after they were first established. "This is the regular policy in Israel," he said.

Many of the outposts are missing precisely one signature - that of the Defense Minister or the Civil Administration Head - for their legality to be finalized. The Yesha Council maintains that the signature is being withheld only for political reasons.

"We have prepared a detailed presentation," Lieberman told Arutz-7's Uzi Baruch, "based on a comprehensive study. In some of the outposts Sasson talks about, the government was a full partner in their establishment, while in others there was no deviation from the rules of the game that have always been in effect. It's [not fair] to change the rules in the middle of the game."

"If the authorities do not relate to what we have to say in a serious manner," Lieberman continued, "then we will have to think what our response on D-Day will be. But if they propose a compromise, we will present it to [former Chief Rabbi] Rabbi Avraham Shapira and senior Yesha rabbis for their consideration."