Those “illegal” or “unauthorized” outposts

By Arlene Kushner

The issue of dismantlement of outposts that are being variously termed “unauthorized” and “illegal” has garnered considerable attention at present for several reasons.

A ministerial committee on unauthorized outposts is looking into the legality of some 100 outposts and says it hopes to complete its work within three months — just in time (surprise!) for the Bush-initiated international conference on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This committee is being chaired by Olmert flunky Vice Premier Haim Ramon. Ramon says it is not within the jurisdiction of his committee to decide what gets dismantled, but rather that this should be decided by Olmert and/or Barak.

There is talk of Defense Minister Barak giving an order before very long with regard to dismantlement of some 26 outposts.

The move to remove outposts is predicated on a promise that was given to the US gov’t by the Sharon gov’t in 2004. There was a letter from Dov Weisglass, chief Sharon aide, to Condoleezza Rice, who was then National Security Advisor, regarding the removal of unauthorized outposts. But the definition of “unauthorized” was not provided and is far more complicated than most people realize.

Do not imagine, please, that there are some settlements that “have permission” to exist, and others that flatly do not. The setting up of settlements is a bureaucratic process that is greatly involved. Multiple authorizations are required — likely involving (I am providing general examples only here) proof of land ownership, permission from the water authority and agreement from the electrical authority, construction of a road to the site by the proper agency, permission from the housing authority to bring in concrete trucks, etc. etc. All settlements have followed these procedures, and even those that are now deemed thoroughly “legal” went through this process one step at a time.

The overwhelming majority of outposts considered to be potentially “unauthorized” have at least some documents and some authorization from agencies within the Israeli government! The decision to label a new settlement as “unauthorized” is as much political as it is legal. This has been explained to me by a top-flight Israeli lawyer. It would be just as possible to determine that the land is legally owned by the Jews involved and that a number of authorizations are already in place, and to thus decide that the settlement should be deemed “kosher” and permitted to proceed, as to say that such and such a piece of paper is not in place and so the venture is “unauthorized.”

MK Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu), who is also a member of the committee, argues that that body and not either Olmert or Barak should have the final say on what gets evacuated. Reflecting what I’ve explained here, he said, “You have to understand, it’s impossible to establish any outposts without some kinds of state help.”

Pushing for agreements with the settlers, he insisted, “This is not the time for internal disagreements and struggles. He considers the forced evacuation of up to 7,000 settlers to be “mission impossible” and charges those who are promoting this with seeking to garner political gain.

Why is there movement towards dismantlement now? Because the US is pressuring Olmert, who aims to please. The American gov’t is declaring itself pleased that at least some attention is being given to the matter. Once the political echelon gives the OK on this some weeks down the road, it is anticipated that action might follow within weeks thereafter.

September 3, 2007 | Comments Off on Those “illegal” or “unauthorized” outposts

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