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Sharon criticised over settlements
by UK Guardian
Wednesday Mar 9th, 2005 5:33 PM
Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, could face a criminal investigation after an inquiry today found government funds had secretly been used to set up illegal West Bank settlements.

A report by the former state prosecutor Talia Sasson called for Israel's attorney general to consider initiating criminal proceedings after discovering various ministries and official institutions had cooperated in channelling money to help to establish unauthorised outposts over the past decade.

Ms Sasson said the discovery called for "drastic steps" to be taken in order to protect Israel's democracy. Although she did not say by name who should face investigation, commentators said Mr Sharon would have played a key role in setting up outposts.

As foreign minister in 1998, Mr Sharon urged settlers to seize West Bank hilltops and establish outposts. One of the peak periods for establishing settlements began after Mr Sharon became prime minister, in 2001.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that control of Jericho and surrounding West Bank areas will be transferred to the Palestinians within the next few days. The handover was announced late last night following a two-hour meeting between the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Israeli defence minister, Shaul Mofaz.

The Sasson inquiry found the housing ministry was among the departments actively involved in setting up outposts. She said the ministry had supplied more than 400 mobile homes and had not established who owned the land on which the enclaves were set up.

"Some of the outposts, built by the housing ministry, were unfortunately built on privately owned Palestinian land," Ms Sasson said. She said the ministry had created a budget for "various developments", amounting to 17m shekels (£2.1m) in 2000 and 34m shekels in 2001, and that some of that money went on building outposts.

Israelis began building settlements more than a decade ago to break up Palestinian areas and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Mr Sharon has repeatedly promised the US he would dismantle the more than 100 outposts, one of Israel's first obligations under the internationally endorsed "road map" peace plan. However, since accepting the road map in 2003, Israel has only removed a few outposts, citing legal difficulties.

Shaul Goldstein, a senior settler leader, said Mr Sharon was deeply involved in the spread of settlements. "The prime minister should look at himself in the mirror and ask himself why and how he did it. He has to be questioned, not us," he said.

Yariv Oppenheimer, head of the anti-settlement group Peace Now, said: "It's something the government did with the settlers, and it's actually the policy of Israel in the West Bank."

The housing minister, Yitzhak Herzog, a member of the moderate Labor party, acknowledged Mr Sharon would have played a key role in setting up the outposts but said the prime minister had had a change of heart and should be praised for ordering a review of the outposts policy.

"The prime minister is displaying unusual courage in the recent period, including on this issue [outposts]," Mr Herzog told Israeli army radio. "The prime minister was connected to this issue, as someone who led the settlement movement ... for many years.

"But to unload the whole story on the prime minister is not right," Mr Herzog said.

The Labor party joined a coalition with Sharon late last year to help to push ahead a proposed withdrawal this summer from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements.

Transferring control of Jericho and four other West Bank settlements to the Palestinians was part of the truce package to which the recently elected Mr Abbas agreed, but the plan was delayed after a suicide bombing killed five Israelis in Tel Aviv on February 25.

Mr Abbas said surrounding areas could also be transferred if Israeli roadblocks were taken down. "We are not talking about towns, but ... surrounding areas," he said. "If there are [Israeli] checkpoints, they must be removed."

Israeli roadblocks are a key concern for the Palestinians. Dozens of such barriers have limited people's movement in and out of the towns, strangling social and economic life. Israel insists they are necessary for security.,2763,1433730,00.html
by Haaretz
Wednesday Mar 9th, 2005 6:03 PM
Former Housing Minister MK Effi Eitam lashed out on Wednesday evening in reaction to a report on illegal settlement building in the West Bank, saying that all illegal outposts he had approved during his time in office were approved in coordination with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, had his full backing and were sometimes initiated by him.

The report, by attorney Talia Sasson, found that some of the illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank were both planned and funded by the Housing Ministry, including a number of those built on private Palestinian land.

Sasson submitted her report to Sharon on Tuesday night. The report essentially confirms longstanding complaints by Palestinians and activist groups like Peace Now that successive Israeli governments, including those in power after the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s, approved and financed for decades the establishment of outpost settlements on privately-owned Palestinian land.

In light of the harsh accusations, Sasson recommended that the Housing Ministry be stripped of authority over construction of settlements in the West Bank, and that this power be transferred to the cabinet.

Current Housing Minister Isaac Herzog said following the release of the report that every expense earmarked for the settlements will now need the approval of the ministry's director-general.

Up until now, the heads of each department at the ministry have been able to sign off on expenses for various construction and infrastructure matters at the settlements.

Also in response to the report, Herzog said that "the main responsibility for the building of illegal outposts in recent years falls with my predecessor, Effi Eitam and his director general." He also added that when he took up the position earlier this year, he ordered that no monies be transferred to the illegal outposts, as well as the establishment of a joint Defense Ministry and Prime Minister?s Office team to coordinate the budgets for the settlements.

'Uncooperative ministries'
Sasson also told reporters at Wednesday's press conference at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem that a number of government ministries had failed to hand over some of the information she requested.

"I was unable to access all the data I asked for from government ministries," Sasson said, adding that the list of outposts that appears in the report is not a complete one. "I do not have a full picture of all the outposts," she said.

She also called on Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to look into the involvement of government employees in the establishment of illegal outposts, and prosecute the offenders.

Sasson said the complacency over unauthorized settlement outpost construction was not limited to the Housing Ministry alone, accusing the IDF Civil Administration and the Defense Ministry of involvement.

According to Sasson, the Defense Ministry must approve any trailers being placed in the West Bank - which in fact it did, in contradiction of the defense minister's instructions.

Sasson said she does not know whether the ministers themselves knew what their ministries were doing, and that it is possible other ministries were also involved in the outpost construction.

Sasson also refrained from mentioning any of the ministers by name, with the exception of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whom she credited with immediately halting the funding of caravans destined for outposts when she became housing minister.

Following the report's publication, Yahad Chairman Yossi Beilin called for a formal government investigation into the matter, with ministries legally compelled to provide all relevant information.

Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer called on the government to take "clear and drastic" action against the outposts, Army Radio reported.

The cabinet will discuss the report in its weekly meeting on Sunday.

The U.S. administration warned Israel on Tuesday that its failure to keep its promise to remove all outposts established in the West Bank since March 2001 will harm relations between the countries, and could have an impact on American aid to Israel.

At their last meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Dov Weisglass, the prime minister's adviser, that President Bush expects Jerusalem to take immediate action based on the conclusions and recommendations in Sasson's report on the outposts.

The Sasson report also confirms the findings of the State Comptroller in his 2003 report, in which the defense minister and his advisor on settlements are said to have either actively or passively enabled the transfer of mobile homes to new outpost sites.

Sasson also confirms the comptroller's findings that funds sent to settlements for security, road paving, electricity and water, lighting and other infrastructure needs went to illegal outposts.
by Haaretz
Wednesday Mar 9th, 2005 6:03 PM
The illegal outposts were all planned by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and coordinated with all the official government bodies, the settlers say.

Adi Mintz, until recently the managing director of the Yesha settlers' council, told Haaretz how it worked a few months ago.

"For many years the government deemed it desirable and possible to create settlement contiguity and not leave holes between settlements," he said. "The outposts served as a means to this end. They were set up on the basis of meticulous planning to seize strategic points."

Mintz said all the outposts were coordinated with the prime minister.

"Someone would sit with Sharon and tell him: `This point is strategic and important.' Sharon would get back to him a few days later and say `you're right, this is an important point. It must be seized.' The ministers knew about them. Even Ben Eliezer, as Sharon's defense minister, toed the line and instructed his people to cooperate. This is how the process of approving and licensing most outposts took place. At a certain stage Sharon turned his back and made an about-face. At that stage, the ministries stopped cooperating, but on the ground there were already 100 outposts, some of them approved, some in the process of being approved. Everything was coordinated. We are not lawbreakers. We are not the villain in this tale."

Mintz told almost the whole story, except for the name of Sharon's partner, Zeev Hever, known by the nickname Zambish. Hever was the secretary general of Amana, the Yesha council's settlement movement. He and Sharon were close buddies until the sharp change in Sharon's positions. They used to pore over and draft maps. Sometimes they went out to the territory together. It was no secret. It was a partnership of interests, but mainly of minds. Only Zambish knows how involved Sharon was in drafting the outposts' map. Only Sharon knows how much Zambish knows. But Zambish will probably not talk.

Sharon appointed attorney Talia Sasson to look into the outposts' affair, but Sharon himself, together with Zambish and his men, are the parents of this child. At a certain stage the parents separated, but the child continued growing and demanded his rights: food, budgets, water, electricity, a telephone line.

Everyone looked after the child - the Housing Ministry, the World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division, the Infrastructures Ministry, the Electric Corporation, Mekorot and everyone else. After all, even an "illegitimate child" needs a warm home. Sharon, who has not seen an outpost for a long time, may discover in the coming months that he may be the one left holding this hot potato, the Sasson report that he himself ordered.
by Joe
Wednesday Mar 9th, 2005 6:35 PM
It's tiny patches of land.

Israel is under 1% of the middle east.

These settlements combine to be a few percent of the 1%.

WHy is the Left _SO_ overly obsessed with Israel?

Seriously, who gives a fuck? So on the other side of planet earth a handful of little towns consisting of a few dozen people in each town should be moved or something. There's so much more important shit to care about on planet earth. THere are people starving down the block from me.

There are millions of americans who don't even have homes.

Hell, a higher percentage of americans are homeless than palestinians are.

by just wondering
Wednesday Mar 9th, 2005 7:24 PM
And if i only steal 1% of your money, am I not still a thief?
by not wondering
Thursday Mar 10th, 2005 7:29 AM
The Jews in Israel did not steal anything. The land was stolen from them by a series of imperalists and military oppressors including Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, and the British. Now, 2,000 years later, they finally have their land back. Its actually an amazing story if you are open minded and not blinded by anti-Semitic propaganda.
by Sefarad
Thursday Mar 10th, 2005 7:39 AM

And still now the Palestinians want to steal the Jews' land.
by Sefarad
Thursday Mar 10th, 2005 7:41 AM

And the Palestinians could have even more homes hadn't Arafat used the European aid given for that purpose to build mansions for his faithfuls.