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How extremist settlers took over Israel

Sasson’s report paid particular attention to Avi Maoz, who led the Ministry of Construction and Housing for most of this period. A political activist who early in his career spoke openly about driving all Arabs from the West Bank, Maoz helped found a settlement south of Jerusalem in the 1990s and began building a professional alliance with Benjamin Netanyahu , then Israeli ambassador to the United States. Nations and would soon begin his first term as Prime Minister. Years later, Maoz would play a key role in Netanyahu’s political survival.

“The picture that emerges before the viewer’s eyes is severe,” Sasson wrote in his report. “Instead of the Israeli government deciding to establish settlements in the territories of Judea and Samaria, its place was taken, from the mid-1990s, by others. The settlers, she writes, were “the driving force,” but they could not have succeeded without the help of “various ministers of building and housing at the time concerned, some of them closing the eyes, others with support and support. encouragement.”

This clandestine network operated, Sasson writes, “with massive funding from the State of Israel, without proper public transparency, without mandatory criteria. The construction of unauthorized outposts is taking place in violation of proper procedures and general administrative rules, and in particular in blatant and continued violation of the law. These violations, Sasson warned, came from the government: “It was the state and public agencies that were breaking the law, the rules, the procedures that the state itself had determined. » This is a conflict, she argued, that has effectively neutralized Israel’s internal checks and balances and poses a grave threat to the integrity of the nation. “Law enforcement is incapable of taking action against ministries that themselves break the law. »

But, echoing Judith Karp’s secret report decades earlier, the Sasson report, released in March 2005, had virtually no impact. Because she had a mandate directly from the prime minister, Sasson might have believed that her investigation could lead to the dismantling of illegal outposts that had metastasized throughout the Palestinian territories. But even Sharon, with his high office, found himself powerless in the face of the machine now in place to protect and expand settlements in the West Bank – the very machine he had helped to build.

All this took place in the context of the withdrawal from Gaza. Sharon, who began overseeing the withdrawal of settlements from Gaza in August 2005, was the third Israeli prime minister to threaten the settlers’ dream of a Greater Israel, and the effort sparked bitter opposition not only from settlers but also a growing part of the international community. the political establishment. Netanyahu, who served his first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, and who had previously voted to withdraw, resigned as finance minister in Sharon’s cabinet in protest – and in anticipation of a new candidacy for the highest position.

News Source : www.nytimes.com
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