October 2007, by
Declarations of "freezing the settlements"
In recent months the government of Israel has declared in different contexts its intention to freeze construction in settlements. It was recently published that the defense minister froze approval of
construction plans as part of "applying pressure" on the settlers in the negotiations over evacuating the outposts. However, the defense minister’s office did not confirm there really was such an order. It appears to be an attempt by the settlers to "raise the price" in negotiations with them and create the impression they are being restricted, especially because of the work of the ministerial committee on outposts (see below).
Negotiations with the settlers to evacuate the outposts
As part of the hearing of the petition by Peace Now and the Palestinian landowners against the outpost of Migron, the state announced that the defense minister is in negotiations with the settlers to evacuate the outposts. According to reports, the emerging "compromise" as part of the negotiations with the settlers includes the retroactive approval of some of the outposts and the relocation of others to "legal" locations that can be approved. Past experience shows that the only ones to gain from such negotiations are the settlers themselves, who knowingly broke the law but retroactively received government approval and recognition of the facts they put on the ground themselves.
Since the phenomenon of the illegal "outposts" began in the 1990s, there have been a number of evacuations of outposts as part of that sort of agreement. In almost all cases the outposts that were evacuated were unpopulated, or incursions that were evacuated during the first days before the settlers actually settle down in them. In
almost all the populated locations the settlers returned to the outpost (Mitzpe Yitzhar, Hazon David, Ma’on Farm and others).
Peace Now has counted 30 "evacuations" of outposts over the years. 18 of them were never populated; of the 12 that were populated 4 returned after the evacuation; 3 moved to a nearby location; one is maintained by the Army; and only 4 were completely evacuated.
The ministerial committee on outposts
Another worrisome trend is the discussions of the ministerial committee on the implementation of the Sasson Report, which are focusing on a draft prepared by the justice ministry, whose purpose is reportedly to
retroactively legalize most of the outposts. Moreover, the draft says the defense minister’s permission will not be needed to expand the settlements (in total conflict with the Sasson Report recommendations). Considering the use made in the past by the government of Israel of the term "expansion" of the settlements, there is concern that this is a de facto green light for building new settlements and outposts under the guise of "expansion" of existing settlements, without need for government permission. These worrisome trends, along with the report figures that show construction and investment in the settlements are continuing apace, are a badge of