Israeli leaders weigh settlement report

An official report on the state's complicity in setting up 105 illegal West Bank settlement outposts has been presented to the Israeli Cabinet.

    Sharon said he was committed to dismantling outposts

    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.

    Road map

    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."

    "The dismantling of the unauthorised outposts is

    part of the Israeli commitment within the road map"

    Ariel Sharon,
    Israeli prime minister

    He also said he expected ministers to approve the

    establishment of a ministerial committee that would s

    upervise implementation of the report's findings.

    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.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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