JERUSALEM -- In a display likely to increase US displeasure with Israel, an opposition lawmaker and former general yesterday showed photos of four West Bank outposts he said prove that the government is deceiving Washington by expanding the enclaves instead of taking them down.
The settlement watchdog group Peace Now said it has counted 53 outposts Israel is required to dismantle under the US-backed "road map" peace plan, or nearly twice the 28 named in a government list handed to the Americans last week.
"There is a clear-cut case of flagrant deception and a breaking of the promise to the Americans," legislator Ephraim Sneh from the Labor party told reporters in displaying the photos.
US officials in Israel declined to comment. However, they have rebuked Israel in recent weeks, a sign of growing impatience with its handling of the outposts, seen as seeds of future settlements.
Asaf Shariv, an aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said the government's list of 28 is accurate, and declined comment on the deception charge. Officials said last week that fewer than half of the outposts on Israel's list would be removed and that others were being "legalized."
Also yesterday, rabbis representing Jewish settlers accused the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service of inciting sentiment against them. The Shin Bet chief, Avi Dichter, had told the Cabinet he was concerned about growing militancy among those opposed to the government's planned evacuation of 8,000 settlers in 2005, as part of a withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
Some settler leaders and rabbis in the West Bank and Gaza have portrayed settlement evacuation as a crime, implying that violent resistance is justified, while insisting they are not urging settlers to break the law.
In the latest such comment, Uri Elitzur, a settler leader and former top aide to former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israel Radio yesterday that to remove someone from his soil is "worse than rape."
The heated debate dominated Israeli talk shows. The threat posed by Jewish extremists has been an issue since Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an ultranationalist Jew. At the time, several rabbis were suspected, though never convicted, of having encouraged the assassin with their rulings.
In a West Bank shoot-out yesterday, Israeli troops killed Khaled Elhawi, the local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in the town of Jenin, the army said.
An 18-year-old Al Aqsa gunman, who is suspected of having killed a settler in a weekend ambush, was wounded and captured in yesterday's battle, the army said.
Al Aqsa is a violent group with ties to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.
This morning, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli soldier and wounded three others at a shoot-out during an Israeli sweep of Ein Beit-Ilma refugee camp in Nablus on the West Bank.
In his presentation on outposts, Sneh showed reporters photos he said document the expansion in four enclaves. Photos taken in 2002 show a few mobile homes in each outpost. By 2004, they had permanent structures and paved roads.
The photos were taken by Peace Now, which said it plans to issue a new report on outpost expansion in the coming days.
Settlers began setting up outposts in 1998 to prevent the transfer of land to the Palestinians in interim peace deals. At the time, Sharon, then foreign minister, urged settlers to seize West Bank hilltops.