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Israeli group backing unilateral peace steps on U.S. tour

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — An Israeli group that promotes unilateral steps toward a two-state solution is making its case in the United States.

Orni Petrushka and Ami Ayalon, the co-founders of Blue White Future, made presentations this week to Jewish communities in Boston and New York, as well as to media outlets, describing their outreach to settlers in the West Bank, including a plan that would entice settlers who live beyond the security fence to move inside Israel.

The plan, which would be voluntary, incorporates legislation that has the backing of some members of the opposition Kadima Party as well as urban planners, and would seek to avoid the pitfalls that marred the hasty evacuation of Gaza Strip settlers in 2005.

The group, which in a statement says it "believes strongly that settler absorption must be done in a manner that demonstrates compassion and respect for the settlers," has initiated meetings between settlers and Israelis who back a West Bank withdrawal.

Its rationale, Petrushka said in an  interview, is to advance the prospects of peace in the absence of likely negotiations for the time being.

Aside from Petrushka, a high-tech entrepreneur, and Ayalon, a former director of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, the founders include Gilead Sher, a former top aide and negotiator under former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Avi Gil, the former director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

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