Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that the Israeli “Defense
Establishment”, conducted a two year investigation that revealed that
there has been rampant illegal constructions in dozens of settlements
in the occupied West Bank. In many cases, all constructions are on
privately owned Palestinian lands.
Haaretz added that the information in the study was presented to two Israeli defense ministers, Amir Peretz and his predecessor Shaul Mofaz. It was never released in public and a number of people participating in the investigations were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Haaretz said that security sources familiar with the study stated that the material carried political and diplomatic dynamite; it was never made public in order to avoid crisis with the U.S government especially after Dov Weisglass, chief of Staff of the then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, promised the U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice in writing that Israel will deal with all illegal constructions, stop illegal outposts and improve the conditions for the Palestinian civilians.
Assistance of Brigadier General, Baruch Spiegel, who retired earlier this month, was also in charge of various issues related to the occupied territories, which Weisglass promised Rice that Israel would deal with.
Spiegel was supposed to update the data base on all settlement activities in the West Bank, but during talks with U.S officials and non-governmental organizations, it appeared that the Israeli defense establishment lacked information regarding settlements and settlement outposts.
The so-called Civil Administration Office, in the occupied territories, did not update the information because it preferred not to know what was going on, and because several key officials there are ideologically sympathizing with the settlers, and actively deleted information in their data base.
Haaretz reported that Spiegel and his team compared the data provided by the Civil Administration to that of the Americans, and carried out dozens of overflights over the territories, using private aircraft at great expense, in order to complete the data base.
After carrying these flights and conducting the studies, there was a big difference between the data of the Civil Administration office and the reality on the ground.
The data collected by Spiegel's investigation was used as the basis of the Sasson Report on illegal settlement outposts in march 2005. The report was conducted by Attorney Talia Sasson.
A source familiar with the data said that “everybody is talking about 107 illegal outposts in the West Bank”, but the issue here is in the “legal settlements” that are expanding and the constructions in them are ongoing for years in direct violation of the law and regulations of proper governance.
Israel promised he United States three years ago that all constructions in older settlements would take place in the already existing neighborhoods in order to meet the “natural growth of the settlements”, and that it will end end sorts of “out-of-control' expansion.
On the ground, Israel failed to meet its commitments, new settlement neighborhoods were constructed, and systematically built on the edge of settlement jurisdiction in order to expand them and control more Palestinian areas and orchards around them.
Also, the data showed that in most of the cases, the illegal constructions took place on private owned Palestinian land and in many cases Palestinian property were included in future expansion plans for the settlements.
The data also revealed that Israel exploited the Intifada and claimed that settlers should not “be exposed to risky areas”, therefore, Palestinian farmers were not allowed to access their orchards that were illegally taken over by the settlers and annexed by Israeli settlements.
Spiegel's study stated that the media is busy with the illegal outposts, which contains in most cases several mobile homes, but on the ground the situation in the settlements “is a lot more serious that what we know up-to-date.
Haaretz said that a senior security official said that he is concerned that with Spiegel's retirement, the settlement and settlement outpost date will not be updated, and will be lost.
The official said that the Israeli Defense Establishment does not want this information exposed in order to prevent “diplomatic embarrassment with the American government.
Also, Haaretz reported that the office of the Israeli Defense Minister, issued a statement in response to the report and said that “the matter is being internally examined” and that staff work will be concluded soon.
The office added that the Defense Minister, will discuss this issue with Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.
On the ground, construction of new homes in illegal settlement outposts continued, and the Yesha Council of Settlements said that since the Lebanon war, junior officers in the defense establishment are turning, in many cases, a blind eye regarding mobile homes being brought to the illegal outposts.