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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07TELAVIV3501 2007-12-12 12:23:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tel Aviv
Cable title:  

READOUT: INTER-MINISTERIAL COMMITTEE ON OUTPOSTS

Tags:   PGOV PREL IS KPAL KWBG 
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1. (C) Summary: On December 11, Vice Premier Haim Ramon
told the Ambassador that the basic principle of any
legislation to standardize the rules of construction in the
West Bank would ensure that any politically sensitive
settlement construction would have to be approved by the
government. Prior to his meeting with the Ambassador, Ramon's
committee met to discuss reservations to the Ministry Of
Justice (MOJ) draft proposal and invited opponents to the
draft to air any reservations. Ramon said that he hoped to
bring forward the draft proposal for a committee vote within
a month. However, embassy contacts who attended the meeting
say that it is unclear whether a new proposal will be
circulated for discussion before the committee vote. End
summary.



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Legislation Will Avoid Nightmare Settlement Expansion Scenario


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2. (C) On December 11, Vice Premier Haim Ramon told the
Ambassador that the basic principle of any legislation to
standardize the rules of construction in the West Bank would
ensure that any politically sensitive settlement construction
would have to be approved by the government. He said that
his inter-ministerial committee on outposts will draft clear
criteria to determine what this means. Ramon said that he
was confident that the legislation drafted would avoid the
nightmare settlement expansion scenario predicted by Talia
Sasson. The Ambassador noted US opposition to Israel's
adoption of any law that would contravene the commitments
made by the GOI to curb settlement expansion and dismantle
illegally constructed outposts (The Ambassador's meeting with
Ramon will be reported septel).



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Readout of December 11 Meeting


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3. (C) Prior to his meeting with the Ambassador, Ramon's
inter-ministerial committee also met on December 11 to
discuss reservations to the MOJ proposal on revising the
rules on settlement and outpost construction in the West
Bank. Opponents of the proposal were invited to air their
reservations to the committee. The following is a readout of
the committee's meeting as separately briefed to econoff by
Peace Now's Settlement Watch Coordinator Hagit Ofran and
Talia Sasson, author of the 2005 report on illegal outposts.

-- Peace Now, Talia Sasson, members of the YESHA settlement
council, and some members of committee voiced their
respective objections to the draft proposal during the
meeting. According to Ofran and Sasson, Ramon said that he
hoped to bring forward the draft proposal for a committee
vote within a month. He planned to prepare his own
suggestions and bring these suggestions for the committee's
vote. Both Ofran and Sasson noted, however, that it was
unclear whether Ramon planned to incorporate or address the
reservations aired at the meeting. Ramon also did not
mention any intention to circulate his suggestions or a
subsequent proposal that the ministers would be voting on.



4. (C) Respective Reservations:

-- Peace Now and Sasson: Peace Now and Sasson said that
aspects of the draft would allow the expansion and
legalization of outposts, as well as thwart any attempts to
challenge these actions in court. They noted that the draft
subverts the intention of the Sasson report, which was to
strengthen government control over settlement construction.
Instead, the proposal would decentralize decision-making
power away from the GOI and the Defense Minister. Sasson
argued that the draft does not require government approval
for settlement expansion plans that are "reasonable and
adjacent." A vague and undefined "reasonable and adjacent"
clause could open the door to rapid expansion of settlements
and outposts. She further noted that the draft, as currently
written, would allow settlement plans that have previously
received approvals to be built without further government
oversight. In response to Sasson's comments, Ramon asked the
Civil Administration to look into how many settlement plans
have been previously approved but not built. Sasson told
econoff none of the ministers who attended the meeting spoke
in support of her reservations to the proposal.

-- YESHA and right-wing ministers: The MOJ proposal

TEL AVIV 00003501 002 OF 002


currently says that all construction in settlements and their
extensions will continue to require GOI approvals. Two
exceptions however, are stated in the draft: expansion of
settlement construction that is "reasonable and adjacent" to
an existing site, or expansion that had received approvals in
the past. Representatives of the YESHA settlement council
voiced objections to any definition of "reasonable and
adjacent." They additionally objected to the draft's
stipulation indicating that obtaining government approval
would be necessary for all other projects that are neither
"reasonable and adjacent," nor already approved at one point.
The settlers claimed that having to obtain government
approval for all other projects would make the approval
process for construction lengthier. According to Ofran and
Sasson, the settlers -- as well as some right-wing ministers
-- argued that the building process in the West Bank should
be easier.

-- Foreign Minister Livni said that she would send her
office's reservations separately, but did not specify when
she would send them. It is unclear what her position on the
MOJ is, or what her reservations are.

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