JERUSALEM (Oct. 14)
Jewish settler leaders have agreed not to block the evacuation of 12 West Bank outposts the government has declared illegal.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak originally called for the dismantling of 15, but lowered the number as the result of a compromise reached Wednesday with members of the Yesha Council, which represents settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As a result of that compromise, the settler leaders backed off earlier threats to fight Barak’s plan.
Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, a member of the secular Meretz Party, later said the compromise had set a precedent.
“This is the first time that settlements will be removed by agreement with the settlers, not in a confrontation with them,” he said.
Settlers set up 42 hilltop enclaves during the past year in a bid to establish “facts on the ground” as Israel and the Palestinian Authority embark on negotiations for a final peace agreement, which among other things will determine the future of the settlements.
As part of the compromise reached Wednesday, 11 of the 42 outposts will be legalized. The remaining 19 will be allowed to remain temporarily, but building there will be banned.
Hard-line politicians and settler activists condemned the decision and vowed to resist it.
Knesset member Rehavam Ze’evi of the National Unity Party accused the Yesha leaders of playing into Barak’s hands.
Saying the leaders “got tired and are not fulfilling their mission,” Ze’evi said, “We will protest and resist this in all of the public channels without violence.”
Interior Minister Natan Sharansky, of the immigrants rights Yisrael Ba’Aliyah Party, who has been a right-wing voice in Barak’s government regarding negotiations with the Palestinians, urged settlers to accept the compromise.
“It is important that now we all act only in accordance with the law,” Sharansky said, adding, “The issue of settlement is very dear to me and I will continue to do everything to strengthen settlement” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.