Israel: `‚ÄúPolitical considerations are preventing the evacuation of illegal outposts`¬Ě

Israel officially announced that there are “political considerations”, including the upcoming elections, which are barring the evacuation of illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, including outposts installed on lands owned by Palestinians.

Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported on Thursday that this official statement was made by the Israeli prosecution in response to a petition to an appeal filed to the High Court of Justice by the Israeli Peace Now movement.
 
The petition filed by the movement was specifically filed against the illegal outposts of Harsha and Yuval.
 
Additionally, High Court declared that it does not intend to get involved into political issues and law enforcement, saying that the main reason for not evacuating those illegal outposts is the coming elections.
 
“The political circumstances prevailing at this time, mainly the fact that a real possibility exists that the general elections will be held within about four months”, the court statement reads.
 
In another section of its statement the high court focused on “planning, political and other considerations” which barred the evacuation of these outposts.
 
“The question of the feasibility of implementing the demolition orders and determining the priorities for implementing the demolition orders are subject, among other things, to political considerations”, the High Court said.
 
The petitioners argued that political considerations should speed up the outpost evacuation since the Road Map, which Israeli has adopted, obligates it to evacuate all illegal outposts by May 2003.
 
The governments’ decision this March to adopt the Sasson report on illegal outposts also obligates it to evacuate at least six of them, after all appeals and legal proceedings have been completed.
 
Dror Etkes, head of the settlement monitoring unit at the Peace Now, said that instead of evacuating hundreds of illegal structures, the state is sending its prosecutors to defend its ongoing failures regarding in fulfilling its responsibilities and its obligation to enforce the law equally.
 
The state prosecution said the High Court does not customarily intervene in ownership issues with political significance, including Israeli settlements.
 
Meanwhile, officials of the so called “Civil Administration Office”, which belongs to the Israeli army, held a meeting recently to formulate the principles regarding the supervision and enforcement policy in the West Bank.
 
The office gave its conclusions to the Israel Chief of Staff, Dan Hallutz, and the Defense Minister, Shault Mofaz, and is waiting for an official response.
These principles are intended to increase the efficiency of the authorities’ supervisory and enforcement activities.
 
In response to the government’s rejection of key Sasson report recommendations about enforcing law in the West Bank outposts, the Israeli Ministry of Justice pointed out, on Wednesday, that the report said that existing legislation appears sufficient for evacuating the outposts.
 
Its is worth mentioning that the Sasson Report revealed that there are at least 120 illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, and that Israeli ministries are officially involved in supporting these outposts.
 
The Israeli government which adopted the report instructed the security devices to coordinate with the Ministry of Justice in order to conduct the needed procedures mentioned in the report.
 
Israeli Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed that the ministry, and its legal adviser for the West Bank, decided that four out of eight proposed amendments to security legislation “are not necessary due to various legal reasons”, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported.
 
Attorney Talia Sasson, who compiled the report, said she was surprised by the decision.
 
Also, the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, asked for the Sasson report since he is required by the Road Map to halt construction in the West Bank and dismantle all outposts established since March 2001. He said in his resignation from the Likud party that the road map would be the sole basis of his new party’s political policy.
 
The Israeli government decided on March 10, 2005 to adopt the Sasson report, which was prepared by the Israeli security establishment, in coordination with the Ministry of Justice; the security establishment and the Ministry of Justice said that they might add “possible amendments” which are needed for in the “security legislation”. 
 
A committee, headed by the Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, was required to submit its recommendations within 90 days, but it received and extension while Israel was implementing the disengagement plan; the deadline passed more than three months ago.
 
Senior security officials in Israel have confirmed reports that construction in illegal outposts has continued since the report was released and said that in some of the outposts, caravans have made way for permanent housing.
 
Haaretz said that the following dour recommendations have been rejected by the Ministry of Justice;
 
 – Set a specific sentence for violating the law on unauthorized structures. The sentence must include significant jail time and a heavy fine.
 
– No authorization will be given for a caravan unless the applicant also presents a building permit that has been issued for the specific caravan in the target location, an aerial photograph of the intended caravan site, a detailed plan for the establishment of the caravan that is signed by the municipal engineer of the local authority where the caravan will go and a statement explaining the need for a caravan. The applicant must also put up a guarantee for 18 months to ensure that the caravan is placed in the target location described in the application and remains there.
 
– Require any construction that takes place outside the jurisdiction of a regional or local authority to be approved by the defense minister. (Current regulations require approval from the political echelon only for construction in areas that fall under the jurisdiction of such authorities.)
 
– Require any West Bank land purchases by Israelis to be approved by the head of the Civil Administration, in writing.
 
Sasson defended the importance of all four recommendations, Haaretz added.
 
Sasson said in her report that the caravans are the central means of the illegal constructions in the West Bank.
 
“Settlers can set up outposts within hours, using caravans”, she added.  
 
She also added that she mentioned in her report that the political approval of constructions is essential since it has a political significance.
 
Labor Party representatives in the ministerial committee in charge of implementing that Sasson Report, Ophir Pines-Paz and Isaac Herzog, said that they were not informed that the ministry rejected four recommendations until they were informed on the matter by Haaretz. 
 
Pines-Paz described this issue as “another nail in the coffin of the report”, and added that he plans to present it to the Knesset and add it to its agenda.
 
Meanwhile, Herzog said he was surprised that the jurists were ignoring the “heart of the Sasson report” by ignoring the necessity to close the gaps in law enforcement procedures relating to illegal outposts.
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