The Myth of Illegal Outposts
The Myth of Illegal Outposts

Yehuda Shimon, an attorney who has been living in Havat Gilad (the Gilad Farm) in the Shomron (Samaria) for the past four years, explains why his settlement is not “illegal.” With seven children, he and his wife Ilana are bringing up the largest of the town’s 28 families.

“The source for the concept of illegal outposts, unauthorized settlements and the like,” Shimon told on Tuesday, “is the infamous Talia Sasson report, commissioned by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon back in 2005.”

Talia Sasson was head of the State Prosecutor's Criminal Department when she authored the report, in which she claimed that government ministries and the World Zionist Organization were diverting millions of shekels to build illegally in Judea and Samaria. Her report essentially coined the term “illegal outpost,” and many Jewish locations in Judea and Samaria have been under the gun ever since then.

After leaving government service, Sasson joined the radical left Meretz party, running for the Knesset on the party’s list. Knesset Members led by the Likud’s Yariv Levin said that given the revelation of her anti-settler bias, “the findings of the report by Attorney Sasson must be reconsidered, [as her report] is tendentious and aims to destroy the settlement project.”

Sasson essentially deemed "illegal" any Jewish location built in Judea and Samaria after 2001 – when George Mitchell prepared a report in which he recommended that the Palestinian Authority relinquish violence against Israel and that Israel freeze all construction in Judea and Samaria. Ariel Sharon agreed at the time not to build any new towns. In 2003, again, Sharon’s Cabinet accepted the U.S. Road Map plan, but made it conditional upon 14 reservations – including the total dismantling of all PA terrorist groups, the cessation of incitement against Israel, the waiver of any right of return of refugees to Israel, and more. The PA did not fulfill these conditions.

In her report, Sasson acknowledged that the choice of 2001 for the cutoff date distinguishing between “legal” and “illegal” outposts was made for political – not legal – reasons.

Sasson Report Never Became Law
More significantly, however, Attorney Shimon noted that the Sasson Report never became a legal document or part of Israeli law. He said that the chairman of the Appeals Committee in the Finance Ministry’s Property Tax Department agreed with him on this point, when the matter came up in a legal hearing regarding rights of settlers whose property was destroyed by terrorists.

Four Conditions - on What Basis?
According to Shimon, Talia Sasson listed four conditions whose absence, in her opinion, rendered a Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria illegal: “The first is that the Cabinet has to have given its approval for its construction; the second is that it must be built on non-private land; the third is that there must be a recognized municipal zoning plan; and fourth, its borders must be determined by the local IDF Commander.”

“Let us review these one by one,” Shimon said. “First – regarding the Cabinet. Whoever determined that the Cabinet must approve the establishment of a new town? Not only is this not the law, and not only is it not logical, it also has never been this way in Israel. 90% of the towns in Israel were built without Cabinet approval! Many of these were built before 1948 – parallel to the situation today in Judea and Samaria, where there is no civilian government but only military rule. Many towns were built throughout Israel without permits and the like, and only received them 20 and 30 years later.”

“The second and third conditions are more acceptable and logical,” Shimon said, “but even they are not totally grounded. For instance, the fact that the Regional Council must issue a zoning plan – this is a Catch-22, because the Council is powerless to do so without the signature of the Defense Minister. The current Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, has us in a bind, because he simply refuses to sign all new plans – and then he claims that the plans are illegal!”

“The fourth condition that Talia Sasson made up is that the borders must be approved by the O.C. Command. But here too – what is the source for this? It is totally arbitrary.”

What about the Gilad Farm, in which Shimon lives? “The land here was purchased privately back in 1983 by Moshe Zar,” Attorney Shimon says. “There was nothing here then, and he didn’t even attempt to get permission to build. Years later, he received approval from the Shomron Regional Council to place four caravans here. Only in 2001, when Moshe’s son Gilad was murdered by terrorists, another son – Itai [today the “mayor” of the Gilad Farm – ed.] – carried out a protest action and set up camp here.  Since then, we have grown to 28 families! We have been recognized by the Shomron Regional Council as its 31st community – and the minute the Defense Minister leaves office, the papers will be ready for his replacement’s signature and approval.”