JERUSALEM Ñ The United States wants Israel to submit a timetable for
the evacuation of more than 100 unauthorized outposts in the West Bank.
Israeli officials and Western diplomatic sources said the Bush
administration regards the dismantling of the outposts as the first major
Israeli obligation in connection with the so-called roadmap. Last week, the
Cabinet of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved a U.S.-sponsored plan for an
end to the Israeli-Palestinian war and the establishment of an interim
Palestinian state by the end of the year.
The diplomatic sources said Assistant Secretary of State William Burns
and National Security Council member Eliot Abrams have called on Sharon to
submit a timetable for the removal of the outposts by the time President
George Bush arrives for a summit in Aqaba with Israeli and Arab leaders.
Burns and Abrams relayed a draft communique that called for an Israeli
commitment to dismantle the outposts.
Sharon has agreed in principle to begin dismantling outposts and has
listed 20 unspecified targets, the sources said. On Sunday, Sharon told his
Cabinet that Israel must prepare to evacuate what he termed were illegal
settlement outposts in the West Bank.
The prime minister did not provide details. But Cabinet members said
they were under the impression that the effort would begin within days.
Officials said Sharon has divided the outposts into two categories. One
group was termed security outposts and officials said the prime minister
intends to retain them. The other category was termed "provocative" outposts
they have been targeted for dismantling.
More than 100 outposts were established in the West Bank during the
Israeli-Palestinian war. Officials said many of the outposts Ñ ranging from
a mobile home and water tank to entire neighborhoods Ñ were built upon the
encouragement of Sharon.