Haaretz (Editorial)
June 22, 2011 - 12:00am

A few days after he revealed his opinion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not stem from a territorial dispute, and is therefore insoluble, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to implement a horrific idea necessitated by his worldview. He decided to accelerate the race to occupy additional territories in the disputed areas by thinning out the means of supervision of the settlement project authorities.

On Sunday, the government decided that the Settlement Department of the World Zionist Organization - the long arm of construction matters in the West Bank - will no longer be required to obtain prior authorization from the defense minister.

Henceforth the department will be required only to "coordinate" its activities with the minister in charge of the territories. This decision by Netanyahu's government makes a mockery of the 2003 decision by Ariel Sharon government (to which Netanyahu was a partner ) to freeze construction in the settlements and dismantle the outposts, as required by the road map to peace.

The initiative to pare the defense minister's authority concerning construction in the West Bank blatantly violates the decision in 2005 by Sharon's government (to which Netanyahu was a partner) to adopt attorney Talia Sasson's report on the outposts.

The report found that the Settlement Department had established dozens of outposts without state permission. In light of the grave findings, Sasson recommended limiting the department's activity beyond the Green Line to operating as a settlement organization solely for purposes of establishing or expanding a settlement the government had already decided to establish or expand.

She also recommended that the Finance Ministry adjust the department's budget in accordance with this recommendation. The decision now to expand the Settlement Department's freedom in the territories complements the government's decision from about two years ago to dedicate one-third of the department's budget to settlements in the territories.

In that same decision the department was required to request the defense minister's authorization for any building and infrastructure development in the territories, and insofar as is necessary authorization from the prime minister as well. The decision at this time to eliminate even the appearance of supervision of settlement building is hammering another nail into the coffin of the two-state solution.


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