Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Israeli settlers start wave of West Bank outposts

Is there a point to this? They agreed to leave volountarily (according to the article), so what statement are they making?

From Reuters:

Jewish settlers set up 13 makeshift outposts in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday in a show of strength ahead of Israeli elections that could swing on the growing debate over the territory.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has vowed to keep major West Bank settlements but has said that some isolated communities may one day have to be dismantled as a way of ending decades of conflict with the Palestinians.

Jewish ultranationalists, furious at Sharon for pulling troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip this year, stake a biblical claim to the land Israel captured in the 1967 war. Palestinians want all of the West Bank and Gaza for a state.

On a hilltop south of Jerusalem, young settlers in knitted skullcaps hammered up wooden frames for buildings.

"The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel and we are not going to give it up," said Yehuda Matar, 17, from the Efrat settlement, its red roofs visible in the distance.

An Israeli military source said the army was treating the action as a protest of tent encampments and that the settlers had said they would eventually leave, but would be evacuated if they did not.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, urged Israel "to cease these activities and uproot the outposts".

Israel is meant to remove dozens of West Bank outposts not authorised by its government under the U.S.-led "road map" for Palestinian statehood, but almost all remain.

Israel has also failed to stop building inside established settlements, all branded illegal by the World Court. Israel disputes this. New building tenders were announced on Monday for 228 West Bank settlement homes.

Palestinians have failed to meet their own road map pledge to start disarming militants.

Good thing we got that final sentence in. Barely.