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Defense Minister Amir Peretz will mostly likely order the evacuation of 12 West Bank outposts after Succot, according to operational details obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
The plan falls in line with statements Peretz made to the Post last week regarding his intentions to evacuate 12 illegal outposts over the next few months, now that the IDF had withdrawn from Lebanon.
"I think it will happen soon," he said. "I agree that the war made it less of a priority, but I intend to deal with this question as the government has decided and the law requires. I ordered the army to prepare an operational plan. We will handle this with the utmost consideration for the residents and without unnecessary conflicts. But if there is no choice, we are prepared to defend the law and implement it. It will happen over the next few months."
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Settler leaders have not been informed of any such plan, said Emily Amrusi, a spokeswoman for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. She added that no one from the Defense Ministry had shown an interest in formally speaking with the council.
National Union MK Arye Eldad said that any attempts to evacuate outposts would replicate the violent clashes that occurred when the security forces demolished nine empty homes at the Amona outpost in late January, an incident in which 150 activists and 86 border policemen and soldiers were injured.
Peretz spoke to the Post before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to the region and in advance of a report by Peace Now claiming that construction has continued in 31 illegal outposts.
A March 2005 report authored by attorney Talia Sasson at the request of the government found that 105 outposts in Judea and Samaria were illegal.
The 12 illegal outposts on the evacuation list drawn up by the coordinator of government activities in the territories include the same small illegal hilltop communities that the government had intended to remove before war broke out in Lebanon.
It is assumed that the list includes Maon and Scali farms, Givat Assaf, Ma'aleh Rehavam, Mitzpe Lachish, Givat Haroeh, Mitzpe Yitzhar and Ramat Gilad.
In the spring, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to abide by the commitment former prime minister Ariel Sharon made to the US that 24 outposts would be dismantled. The government at the time had looked to deal with the remaining outposts within the framework of a final-status solution for the West Bank.
"The unauthorized outposts will come down," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Tuesday, but he did not give specific numbers nor did he give a deadline.
He added that "the Israeli government is committed to dealing with the issue of the illegal outposts. This is not only a commitment Israel made under the road map and a commitment that we have reiterated our support for, but it is also a matter of rule of law at home."
A senior American official told the Post recently that the US still believed the removal of the outposts was a necessary step to be able to make progress with the Palestinians. He said the US was willing to allow Israel a period of grace due to the war in Lebanon, but expected the outposts would be removed the moment the IDF was back in Israel.
The coordinator of government activities in the territories drew up a list of 12 illegal outposts, that were part of the 110 outposts Sasson listed in her report and could not be approved since they were either built on private or state-owned land whose zoning the government was unwilling to change.
According to operational details of the planned evacuations, Central Command will be assigned overall responsibility for the operation together with the Judea and Samaria police, which will carry out the physical evacuation. The IDF will be responsible for securing the perimeter of the outposts to prevent right-wing reinforcements from reaching the area.
The plan is to evacuate three-to-four outposts at a time. "This is a complicated operation that will require a large force and cannot be done at once," said one defense official involved in the plans for the evacuations.
He said the outposts evacuated simultaneously would be in different regions of the West Bank, making it more difficult for reinforcements to arrive at each one.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.