Report accuses Israeli agencies of giving support to settlement outposts

Unauthorized satellites put stress on peace efforts

March 09, 2005|By Laura King | Laura King,LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM - A report commissioned by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon accuses Israeli agencies of complicity in the building of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank.

The outposts, dozens of tiny satellite communities usually built by militant settlers and meant to expand the reach of existing settlements, are supposed to have been removed under a U.S.-supported peace plan. But the Sharon government has been slow to do so.

Coinciding with the report's release yesterday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of unnecessarily delaying promised steps such as a troop pullback from West Bank population centers.

Abbas, addressing Palestinian lawmakers, said such foot-dragging "gives a pretext to those who are plotting to sabotage the peace process."

The Palestinian president met last night with Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, the highest-level talks by the two sides since a Feb. 25 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv killed five Israelis. The exiled leadership of the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

Mofaz and Abbas were said to be finalizing details of the Israeli withdrawal from five West Bank cities, which was pledged by Sharon at a summit in Egypt last month. The biblical town of Jericho and the northern West Bank city of Tulkarm are first on the list, but no firm date was set for the troop pullback.

Settlement outposts have long been a sore point between the two sides. Although often little more than a cluster of trailers and water towers clinging to bare West Bank hillsides, the outposts stake a symbolic claim to land the Palestinians want for their future state.

The report by Talia Sasson, a former state prosecutor, said Israel's housing ministry, immigration agency and military provided money, logistical support and infrastructure for more than 100 unauthorized outposts.

"It appears that blatant violations of the law have become institutional and institutionalized ... and that no enforcement of the law is seriously intended," said the report.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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