Sasson Report: Eng. Summary of the Opinion Concerning Unauthorized Outposts, 2005

The Sasson report provides a detailed account of the background for the establishment of illegal outposts (as opposed to officially sanctioned settlements) in the occupied Palestinian territories on the west bank, beginning in the early 1990s. Sasson explains the ‘unauthorized outpost phenomenon’ as a continuation of the settlement enterprise in the territories but points to a noticeable stratification, emerging in this period, between ‘the political echelon’ of the Israeli government on the one hand and ‘public authorities and other Israeli government bodies’ on the other. She depicts a growing gap between the latter – who facilitated the building of illegal outposts – and the political echelon, that sometimes ‘inspired’, sometimes ‘overlooked’ and sometimes ‘encouraged or supported’ the establishment of the outposts, but did not provide official authorization. It was this lack of authorization by qualified government personnel, which made (and makes) the outposts in question illegal.

Sasson remarked that she encountered considerable frustration in attempting to gain access to relevant documentation and identifies the government and affiliated bodies whose records she was able to examine. She highlights the role of, among others, the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, fully funded by the State Treasury, in exceeding its settlement mandate by building many unauthorized outposts.

The report demonstrates that outposts have been partly built on so-called ‘State Land’, partly as unauthorized extensions of existing Settlements, and partly on privately owned Palestinian land. Her recommendations include the prohibition of any settlement or building without ‘a thorough examination into the interests in the designated lands’, recall of all caravans provided to regional councils until the impugned involvement of the ministries in question has been examined, and the sweeping retraction of land allotments granted to the Settlement Division until such time as the status of all such allotments can be verified.

Attorney Sasson vigorously endorsed an earlier ruling by the Israel High Court of Justice that ‘the Commander of the area must protect the fundamental rights of the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. This means he must also protect their right of possession. It is the Commander’s duty to prevent the intolerable prejudice of Palestinians’ right of possession, which an establishment of outposts on their property causes’ (see p.16). With regard to reparations, Sasson recommended as urgent, legislation making it possible to prosecute and punish with prison terms as well as burdensome fines, Israeli’s who build illegally on privately owned Palestinian land.

In 2012 the ‘Levy Report’ commissioned by the present Israeli government, contradicted the findings of the Sasson Report, arguing for the legality of all Israel’s building activities in the Westbank. Click here for a legal analysis of the arguments in the Levy Report by lawyers and academics from Yesh Din in collaboration with several others.