Peace Now slams illegal construction (JERUSALEM POST) By TOVAH LAZAROFF 02/03/05)
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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,
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.
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
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
But Oppenheimer charged that it was the government´s
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.
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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