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Labor, Nationalist MKs Ally against Outposts - but Which Ones?

National Union MK will join Labor MK Ofer Pines in a Knesset lobby opposing "illegal outposts." The 2 MKs' definitions of outposts differ greatly.
By David Lev
First Publish: 7/9/2009, 3:01 PM

Israel News Photo: File

MK Ofir Pines (Labor), not known for nationalist views, has a new and unexpected ally in his battle against outpost communities: National Union MK Dr Michael Ben-Ari, who has graciously accepted an invitation by Pines to sit on a panel the Labor MK is forming to discuss ways to stop “illegal building.“

But Ben-Ari's definition of "illegal building" may differ somewhat from that of Pines.

In a letter to MKs, including Ben-Ari, inviting them to the "Outpost Lobby" study group that Pines is forming, the Labor MK wrote that there were now "over 100 illegal outposts, which is a mark of Cain on Israeli democracy. These outposts in Judea and Samaria prevent Israel from arriving at a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinian Authority, and are causing us great embarrassment internationally, as well as contributing greatly to the current crisis with the United States."

The lobby, he wrote, will "track the development in the outposts, raise consciousness among the public to the problem, and encourage the government to evacuate them. At our first meeting we will set an agenda, taking into account the concerns of all Knesset members who attend," Pines wrote, adding that Ben-Ari, as a Knesset member, was cordially invited as well.

In response, Ben-Ari said he would be glad to join the lobby – because he also is quite concerned over illegal building. However, the illegal building Ben-Ari intends to highlight is the rampant construction in the Arab sector, he wrote in a response to Pines's invitation.

"The problem of illegal building and outposts has become a national plague," Ben-Ari wrote, "especially within the Green Line, in places like Umm el-Faham, Rahat, the Shoket Junction, the areas outside Yerucham and Dimona, as well as in Judea and Samaria, where Arabs illegally occupy and build on much of the land, building structures next to highways without permits and without protests. The Jewish people are required to ensure the future of their national homeland, and the neglect of police and the legal system on this matter endangers the future of the Jewish people."
The problem of illegal building and outposts has become a national plague, especially within the Green Line, in places like Umm el-Faham, Rahat, the Shoket. Junction, the areas outside Yerucham and Dimona

While Pines mentioned the building of 100 outposts in Judea and Samaria, Ben-Ari was concerned about a far larger problem. "I have information on tens of thousands of illegal structures built by Arabs in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and key spots in the Negev. I congratulate you on your efforts," Ben-Ari said, adding he would be glad to participate in any discussions the lobby holds.

Highlighting his concern over the matter, Ben-Ari, along with parliamentary aide Itamar Ben-Gvir and activist Baruch Marzel, are set to travel to the Negev Bedouin city of Rahat Friday to examine close-up the illegal building there. The trip is to take place despite threats by Arab MK Ibrahim Zarzur, who warned them to stay away from the town "for their own safety," said Ben-Gvir and Marzel,

In a statement, Ben Gvir and Marzel added that police had authorized the tour, although the route was still subject to discussion. Regardless, they said, they intended to go on the tour. "We will not let criminals manage the affairs of the state, building illegally wherever they want, as if this was the Wild West. We will conduct a tour in Rahat just like we did in Umm el-Faham” earlier this year, the statement said.