Outposts Show Israeli
Failure To Honor 'Roadmap'

By Chris Otton

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.



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