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O.U. asks Olmert to reconsider evacuation

The Orthodox Union asked Israel to reconsider a decision to evacuate a controversial outpost near Hebron. A number of settler families moved into “Beit Hashalom,” a building on the Hebron-Kiryat Arba road, last month. Defense Minister Amir Peretz ordered their evacuation by mid-May because the settlers did not clear the purchase of the site with his ministry, as required by law. Additionally, it’s not clear if the purchase was legal, as a Palestinian man still claims ownership. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly might override Peretz’s order, and the Orthodox Union, the umbrella body for modern Orthodox organizations in the United States, urged Olmert to give “careful consideration” to such a decision. Olmert should consider that the site was “legally purchased,” said the letter sent Monday by the O.U. leadership. It recalled the trauma following the 2005 evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip, although the Gaza settlers had been in place for years, not weeks. “We thank you again for delaying action regarding this issue and urge you to continue to act with consideration and restraint on this matter,” the letter said. The new outpost, if completed, would house about 20 families and provide contiguity for the first time between Kiryat Arba and Hebron.