OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, 5 May 2003— Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has decided to suspend the dismantling of a dozen rogue settlement outposts, Israeli public radio said yesterday.
Only one of the unauthorized outposts, located in the West Bank, is currently inhabited. In a mainly symbolic act as peace hopes in the region cautiously grew, the army last week removed a caravan acting as a settlement outpost near Hebron in the southern West Bank.
Mofaz had planned to break up a dozen other such wildcat settlements whose removal is called for in the first phase of the international peace “road map” to end the conflict, and whose initial step is supposed to be implemented this month.
But the radio said Mofaz deferred the move “while waiting to have the legal status clarified.”
Housing Minister Effi Eytam, from the ultra-nationalist pro-settler National Religious Party, welcomed the decision to maintain the makeshift settlements, which can slowly grow into full, permanent settlements. Eytam told the radio “the vast majority of the so-called illegal outposts are in fact legal.”
However, National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky of the secular center-right Shinui party, which strongly opposes all settlements, said he was “surprised and shocked” by the defense minister’s decision. “These wildcat settlements are illegal, that’s all there is to say, and the state should dismantle them independently of all foreign pressure,” he said.
The international road map, drawn up by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia, calls for a freeze of all settlement growth and the removal of the outposts.