peretz makes point 298.
(photo credit: AP)
For the first time, settler leaders on Thursday appeared to be weighing a deal with the government by which it would agree to the relocation of a number of outposts in exchange for the legalization of others.
Both the government and the settler leaders are hoping that such an agreement will prevent a second violent confrontation between security forces and activists over the possible removal of a number of unauthorized outposts, like the one which occurred when the government demolished nine empty homes in the Amona outpost in the West Bank last winter.
"We will try to come to an understanding that there won't be a second Amona in the state of Israel ever again," MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) told The Jerusalem Post. Schneller is handling the talks with the settlers on behalf of the government. As part of this process of ongoing conversations, Defense Minister Amir Peretz met Tuesday night with Ze'ev Hever, one of the leaders of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
"There is room for an agreement," council spokeswoman Emily Amrusi told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. Her words marked the first time the council appeared so willing to make such a compromise.
According to Schneller, the seeds of the deal date back to even before the election of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in March, when the government sought a dialogue with settler leaders.
Talks regarding a possible deal, which had begun to take shape in the spring, were suspended when the war broke out this summer and were resumed in the last two weeks, Schneller said.
"There was an agreement between myself and Olmert that we would hold straight and honest talks with the settlers," said Schneller.
As part of the deal, the 105 unauthorized outposts are being divided into two categories: those constructed prior to March 2001, when former prime minister Ariel Sharon took office, and those which were built afterwards.
Currently, all talks deal only with some 50 outposts built after March 2001, because Israel had promised the United States that it would deal with this construction, said Schneller. While he refused to specifically talk about numbers, he did say that all outposts deemed by the state to have been built on private Palestinian land would be removed.
It was the legal status of those outposts built on land owned by the state which is being reviewed, Schneller said.
Peace Now, which has long lobbied for the demolition of the outposts under the argument that all such construction in Judea and Samaria is illegal, condemned the move.
"We don't think lawbreakers need to get a prize, and we're afraid that this deal will be cosmetic - that one or two outposts will be evacuated and the rest declared legal," said Yariv Oppenheimer, the group's director. But if the agreement led to the removal of most outposts, Oppenheimer said, he would see it as progress.
Under President George W. Bush's road map peace plan, Israel is expected to evacuate all the unauthorized outposts. A compromise that would leave a significant number of outposts in place could constitute a violation of Israel's commitments under that plan.
AP contributed to this report.