Ministry may sue W. Bank council heads

Defense Ministry mulls taking legal action against local council heads for permitting illegal outposts.

outpost evacuation 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
outpost evacuation 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
The Defense Ministry is considering taking legal action against local council heads in the West Bank for permitting the establishment of illegal outposts. The review is being conducted by the Defense Ministry's legal counsel Ahaz Ben-Ari, and the findings will be submitted to Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the coming days. The idea is to find the council chiefs - under whose jurisdiction and direct support the outposts were established and maintained - legally responsible. "The council chiefs in Judea and Samaria are elected officials and are responsible for enforcing the law," explained one defense official. "As a result they can't support illegal construction, just like council heads in the rest of Israel can't." To date there are some 101 unauthorized outposts in the West Bank, which were built between 1995 and 2005. Although no new permanent outposts have been established under the auspices of the council in the last four years, construction has continued in many of those already existing. According to Peace Now, in the last two years 309 structures, most of them temporary, were added to the outposts. Shmuel Klein, of the Legal Forum for Israel, said the issue here was political and not legal. "As a result, nothing will come out of this," he said. If this is about services to the outposts, than the council had an obligation to service those citizens in their area, he added. "Children who live in an unauthorized outpost have a right to go to school." The council heads, he said, did not build the outposts. More to the point, the legal situation of the outposts was not different from that of other communities within the green line that were constructed without plans or authorization. Binyamin Regional Council head Avi Ro'eh charged that the Defense Ministry was seeking ways to lob accusations against settler leaders. Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said it was about time the council heads were held accountable for the unauthorized outposts in their regions. "I hope that this time it will be taken care of seriously. Law enforcement is not about running after young activists or hilltop youth, but dealing with the structures that support them," Ofran said. According to a state comptroller's report in 2004, the Housing Ministry was also involved in the construction of at least 18 unauthorized outposts. Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, dismissed the Defense Ministry's legal threat as an act of "inconceivable intimidation."