JERUSALEM – An Israeli list of its unauthorized West Bank (search) outposts drew a rare public rebuke Thursday from U.S. officials, who said Israel is failing to keep a promise to dismantle dozens of the enclaves.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported Thursday that the Israeli list includes 28 outposts, 16 of which are in the process of receiving government approval. A senior Israeli government official declined to comment on the report, but confirmed that the list had been handed to U.S. officials.
Paul Patin, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, criticized Israel, saying: "You can't create an illegal outpost one day and subsequently declare that it's legal."
American officials have expressed growing impatience with Israel over the West Bank outposts. Under the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, endorsed in June 2003, Israel is required to dismantle dozens of outposts.
But it has removed only a small number, and scores dot the barren hilltops of the West Bank. Some have grown into small communities, with synagogues, playgrounds and state-funded roads.
The United States and the Palestinians have criticized the outposts as seeds of future settlements that prejudge peace negotiations.
Israel already has established some 150 established settlements, home to 230,000 Israelis, in the West Bank.
The Palestinians hope to establish an independent state in all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer last week called on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) to fulfill a commitment to dismantle the outposts.
Kurtzer noted that Israeli officials had pledged to turn over a list of outposts to the United States within 30 days after Sharon visited the White House in April.
The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Israeli Defense Ministry presented an outpost list to Kurtzer earlier this week.
"Joint teams will now be established between the Ministry of Defense and Ambassador Kurtzer's office to determine which of the outposts is legal and which is not," he said.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz (search), meanwhile, ordered the army to review the route of the unbuilt section of Israel's separation barrier in the West Bank, security officials said on condition of anonymity. Only one quarter has been built.
Sharon said he was ready to change the route. "We need to simplify things and not create ... closed-off Palestinian enclaves since we have not succeeded in creating convenient conditions for moving through the fence," the Haaretz daily quoted Sharon as saying.
Mofaz proposed the review in a meeting with senior security officials Thursday, a day after Israel's Supreme Court ordered the government to reroute a key segment near Jerusalem.
The court said the original path would have caused too much hardship to thousands of Palestinians and violated international law.
Later Thursday, Sharon met Mofaz and Israel's justice minister to discuss the ramifications of the Supreme Court ruling on the barrier. A government official said Sharon made no decisions, telling Mofaz to come back with detailed proposals.
Security officials say Mofaz wants army experts to review the unbuilt three-fourths of the 425 mile barrier to make sure it meets the court's criteria.
Israel has long maintained that the barrier is crucial for keeping out Palestinian attackers who have killed hundreds of Israelis in nearly four years of fighting.
Palestinians say the divider, which at times dips deep into the West Bank, amounts to a land grab.
Next week, the world court at The Hague, Netherlands, is to issue an advisory ruling on the barrier's route, at the request of the Palestinians.
In new fighting in the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers killed five Palestinian gunmen in a shootout near the main road, the army said. Elsewhere, a 9-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli army fire.