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Peace Now slams illegal construction (JERUSALEM POST) By TOVAH LAZAROFF 02/03/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107314591046 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and all those responsible for illegal construction in the territories should be brought to justice, said Peace Now spokesman Yariv Oppenheimer as he released statistics for 2004 at a press conference Wednesday.

"The people who knew of the illegal construction and allowed it to happen – even ministers, even the prime minister – should stand judgment," said Oppenheimer.

He also called for the creation of an investigatory committee to examine how it was carried out and who was responsible. "What happened here was a crime and this crime has to be investigated. These buildings were deliberately put on the ground. They didn´t fall from the sky. Public money shouldn´t be used for illegal activity. We are a nation of laws," he said.

People like former construction and housing minister Effi Eitam (NRP), the heads of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and Sharon all needed to stand judgment, he said.

Oppenheimer´s comments came in advance of a report soon to be released by Talia Sasson, a former Justice Ministry official. In August Sharon asked her to investigate the issue.

Yediot Aharonot, quoting officials who have seen the report, said that in the past decade, the unauthorized outposts had received government funding and services, even though they were never officially approved.

Nearly every ministry was involved in assisting the outposts, even after successive attorney-generals demanded funding to the illegal communities be halted, Yediot reported.

In May, the state comptroller criticized the Housing Ministry for funneling nearly $6.5 million into illegal settlement construction during the last three years, more than half of it to outposts the government had agreed to remove.

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz) urged the Justice Ministry to open an investigation into the matter, and Labor faction chair Eitan Cabel wrote a letter to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz complaining that if the situation continued, it would look like the government could not enforce the law.

Neither the Ministry of Construction and Housing nor its minister, Isaac Herzog, had a comment on the matter.

A government source charged that Peace Now´s statements were politically motivated. The group was looking for a way to attack the government, he said, adding that it was premature to comment on a report that had yet to be published.

"What is illegal will be removed and what is legal will remain," he said. One should deal cautiously with the Peace Now claims, he warned.

But Oppenheimer charged that it was the government´s statistics that were questionable. According to Peace Now´s 2004 report, the number of outposts has remained stable since October 2002, but the occupancy rate has increased.

When Sharon took office in March 2001, there were 44 outposts. By October 2002, there were 100, of which 70 were occupied. The number then hit 108, some of which have been removed by the government, bringing the total back to 99, of which 95 are occupied.

Sharon is obligated under the road map to remove the outposts and freeze all but natural growth in the settlements.

In the last year, according to Peace Now, two outposts — Ginot Arye and Tal Binyamin Synagogue — were dismantled. Mitzpe Yitzhar was rebuilt. Three others, Migron South, Ofra Northeast and Ofra Southeast, were erected. Twelve outposts were expanded and permanent construction was carried out in 15 of them. That list includes Gilad Farm, evacuated by the government in June 2003, and Givat Assaf, which is slated for evacuation.

The Council of Jewish Communites countered Peace Now by saying: "Not only are the outposts not being expanded, but growth has actually slowed down." AP contributed to this report. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/03/05)

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