JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will dismantle illegal settlements by force if negotiations do not progress, Ehud Barak told settler leaders.
The Israeli defense minister met Wednesday with the leaders of the Yesha settlers’ council, at the latter’s request.
"We will dismantle the illegal outposts. If it isn’t through understanding, it will be done quickly and by force," Barak reportedly said. He also reportedly told the settler leaders that the outposts hurt Israel in the diplomatic arena overseas and undermine the cause of the settler movement.
The Yesha council asked Barak to unfreeze construction in legal West Bank settlements and restore planned cuts in the security budget for the Jewish communities. The council also asked Barak to reconsider the easing of travel restrictions against Palestinians, which they said could endanger the lives of Israelis.
The 2003 road map peace plan requires Israel to dismantle all outposts established after March 2001 and to halt settlement construction.