Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Israel: American pressure on outposts is fading

The US is reducing pressure on Israel to dismantle unauthorized settlements in order to facilitate the evacuation of settlements in Gaza and northern Samaria under the disengagement plan, a senior Israeli official said Saturday night.

The official was responding to reports that the Prime Minister's Office has pushed off the date by which Talia Sasson, a former Justice Ministry official charged with presenting a report on the legal issues involved in dismantling the unauthorized settlements, was to present her report.

Sharon appointed Sasson last month to navigate the legal issues involved in removing the outposts.

The visit by a US team to monitor the status of the unauthorized settlement outposts and settlement construction, a visit that was originally planned for the beginning of September, has also been postponed.

According to Israeli officials, there is a growing understanding in the Bush administration that the emphasis now should be placed on planning and preparing for disengagement, and that dealing with the outposts now is a 'sideshow' that would detract from the 'main event.'

'The settlers want to use the outposts to create a major flare-up before disengagement,' the official said, and 'to show how difficult it will be to carry out disengagement, if there is so much opposition to removing a few mobile homes.'

The official said that the government wants to avoid a major confrontation with the settlers over a 'relatively minor issue. If there is to be a major confrontation with the settlers, let it be on the main issue and not on the side one,' the official said.

The official said that Israel will honor its commitment to the US and dismantle the outposts, but 'at the right time.'

'The settlers want to turn every outpost into Masada,' the official said. "