Ramon: No outposts erected since 2005

However, since report commissioned by Ariel Sharon published, not a single outpost dismantled.

haim ramon 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
haim ramon 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Not a single new outpost has been established in the West Bank since 2005, Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon told the Knesset State Control Committee on Monday. Ramon was speaking during a committee discussion on whether or not to ask the State Comptroller for an opinion on how the government has dealt with the report published by Attorney Talia Sasson on March 9, 2005. The motion to discuss the matter was filed by Avshalom Vilan (Meretz). In her report, Sasson determined that settlers had built 105 illegal outposts with government connivance, including 61 which were built on land part or all of which did not belong to the state. Sasson, whose investigation was commissioned by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon, recommended that 15 of the illegal outposts be dismantled as quickly as possible and the land returned to their Palestinian owners. However, not a single outpost has been removed during the three years that have elapsed since the report was presented to Sharon and the government. Ramon told the committee that since then, the government has refrained from transferring funding to the outposts unless the request is approved by a special committee headed by Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. Ramon is head of a special ministerial committee appointed to implement the findings of the Sasson Report. However, Sasson, who also appeared before the committee, spoke out strongly against the plan the committee reportedly intends to adopt to achieve that aim. "If the plan that is up for a vote is the same proposal that I saw in the ministry of justice and that has previously been discussed by your committee," she told Ramon, "I would be happy if you did nothing and left things as they are. That would be preferable to adopting such a plan." The Justice Ministry proposal was first mooted in the summer of 2006. Sasson charged at the time, and has continued to do so ever since, that the plan drastically reduces the number of outposts that would continue to be considered illegal, and, in fact, does not define what constitutes an illegal outpost. The plan also reportedly gives existing settlements the right to build expansions if they are "reasonable and close to" the settlement itself, without requiring permission from the government. On the eve of the resumption of deliberations by the ministerial committee in September 2007, Sasson charged that the proposal constituted a "de facto laundering" of the illegal outposts. But Ramon told the committee, "the committee's job is above all to determine the regulations for building despite the diplomatic restrictions. We are dealing only with how to implement what emanates from the Sasson Report." Meanwhile, the human rights organization Yesh Din issued a statement expressing "astonishment" at Ramon's claim that no new outposts had been built since 2005. "In recent months, Yesh Din has been conducting a stubborn and daily battle to force the government to evacuate Shvut Ami, an outpost established last Succot. Despite a number of short-lived evacuations, the results indicate that the government and the army have failed." Yesh Din added that there are other outposts like Shvut Ami in the territories.