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(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
In a sign that outpost evacuations are on the horizon and in a move likely aimed at appeasing the White House, Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday approved a plan to increase the number of construction inspectors in the West Bank by a few dozen, about 50 percent.
The inspectors will be responsible for uncovering and mapping illegal Jewish building in Judea and Samaria and particularly in outposts. Barak has vowed to remove some 25 illegal outposts built after March 2001, in keeping with an Israeli commitment to the US.
The new employees will be hired to work for the civil administration's inspection department, which keeps track of all new construction projects. The inspectors' job is to track illegal construction and to deliver any stop-work, eviction or demolition notices.
"Outposts will be evacuated," one Defense official said. "The inspectors will assist in locating the illegal construction and preventing the establishment of new outposts."
Pinchas Wallerstein, the director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said the move was a "declaration of war against Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria."
He called it unprecedented and "scandalous."
The is 10 times more illegal construction by Palestinians in the area than by Jews, and yet "no one touches them," Wallerstein said.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said the problem of illegal construction, both in outposts and in settlements, was not caused by a lack of information on the part of the IDF. "It is not a problem of inspection, it is a problem of enforcement," she said.
"Demolitions orders are issued against almost all illegal construction, but they are rarely enforced," she said.