An official report on the state's complicity in setting up 105 illegal West Bank settlement outposts has been presented to the Israeli Cabinet.
Ministers on Sunday were to adopt the findings of the report in a vote, including asking the attorney general to investigate possible criminal wrongdoing by civil servants. However, the vote does not mean the Cabinet is ordering the immediate dismantling of the outposts.
Settlers established the outposts, usually starting with a few mobile homes, a generator and a water tank, in the past decade to break up Palestinian areas and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state.
Under the US-backed road map peace plan, Israel promised to remove outposts established after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to power in March 2001. According to the official report on the outposts, 24 were established after that date, while 71 were built before 2001. In 10 cases, it is not clear when they were set up.
US officials say they expect Israel to eventually remove all the outposts, seen as seeds of new settlements. Successive Israeli governments have promised not to establish new settlements on lands claimed by the Palestinians for a future state, and outposts were seen as a way around that promise.
At the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Sharon said: "The dismantling of the unauthorised outposts is part of the Israeli commitment within the road map."
He also said he expected ministers to approve the establishment of a ministerial committee that would supervise implementation of the report's findings.
"The dismantling of the unauthorised outposts is part of the Israeli commitment within the road map"
Israeli prime minister
Sharon had commissioned the study, conducted over six months by a former state prosecutor, Talia Sasson. His critics have said the study was largely a ploy to divert US pressure over the outposts, at least temporarily. For most of his political career, Sharon was the main force in expanding Jewish settlements. In 1998, as foreign minister, he exhorted settlers to seize hilltops and build more outposts.
Sasson described systematic deception by several government ministries and authorities in funnelling millions of dollars to the outposts. However, the report stopped short of blaming Sharon or other leading politicians, who settlers say gave them support and money for outposts in the past decade.