- ELI SETTLEMENT, West Bank
(AFP) - Two dilapidated trailers high on a hill in the West Bank were a
stark reminder Monday of Israel's failure so far to meet the terms of the
US-backed roadmap for peace as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sought to convince
Washington of his commitment to the agreement.
- The two uninhabited cabins south of Nablus, which the
settlement watchdog Peace Now says have been erected in the last few weeks,
are in clear breach of a pledge by Sharon at the launch of the roadmap
last month to dismantle such structures.
- But while a handful of outposts have been taken down
in a blaze of publicity since the launch in Jordan on June 4, Peace Now
activist Dror Etkes said 12 others had since been established.
- "This is an attempt to cheat the Israeli people,
the Palestinians and the international community by not paying the price
needed for peace," said Etkes, who discovered the latest outpost overlooking
the official settlement of Eli while flying a Cessna over the area on Saturday.
- Sharon has been seen as the architect of Israel's settlement
policy for decades and his 1998 call to "seize the hills" has
remained a rallying cry for radical settlers.
- But the roadmap, which Sharon endorsesd, demands Israel
remove the more than 60 outposts set up since he came to power in March
2001 as part of measures leading to the creation of an independent Palestinian
state by 2005.
- The Israeli army announced Monday that it had dismantled
a settlement outpost overnight near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
- Sharon is keen to convince US President George W. Bush
during talks at the White House on Tuesday that he is serious about meeting
the terms of the roadmap and that the Palestinians, rather than the Israelis,
are throwing up obstacles to an agreement.
- But Ektes said that Sharon's government lacked the political
will to really take on the settlers.
- "It's a matter of political will. They don't want
to do it. They don't say they don't want to do it, but they are lying."
- While the outpost near Eli is currently uninhabited,
settlers have made clear their long-term intentions by carving a road up
the hill through fields of olive and fig trees. Unless dismantled by the
military, it seems destined to become part of an expanded Eli which is
already home to some 2,500 settlers.
- A vision of the future can be seen around half a mile
away at the rapidly-expanding settlement of Maale Haroe, which also consisted
of no more than a a couple of cabins when Etkes visited 12 months ago.
- Eight families have since made Maale Haroe their home,
while a group of east European construction workers could be seen Monday
working on the foundations of another half-a-dozen houses.
- One settler, who moved from Paris a year ago, was unapologetic
about building at Maale Haroe.
- "There's been a Jewish presence here since time
began," said the settler who would only give his name as Allan.
- The 30-year-old said that living in the West Bank, rather
than somewhere like Tel Aviv, was the only way to appreciate "the
reality" of Israel.
- But he added he was prepared for the Israeli government
to make concessions if they could lead to peace with the Palestinians.