matan vilnai 248 88 aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Evacuating illegal outposts in the West Bank is a "central issue" for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's new government, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i was quoted as saying on Saturday.
The comments followed Thursday's demolition of a small West Bank outpost near Ramallah called Maoz Esther.
"Certainly, right now this is a central issue and after we have a discussion we will be able to set a timetable for removal," Reuters quoted Vilna'i as saying.
He called the government's approach "unequivocal" while saying that in the past there had been "ambiguity" on the issue.
"There is a clear standing order to ... remove every outpost. There is a constant struggle in which [the IDF] removes outposts and [the settlers] return to them to build them... it happens all the time," Vilna'i said.
On Thursday, officials told The Jerusalem Post that Defense Minister Ehud Barak had ordered the IDF to complete a contingency plan for the forced evacuation of illegal West Bank outposts.
They said Barak intended to begin removing the outposts in the coming weeks but had instructed his settlement adviser Eitan Broshi to first try to reach an agreement with the settlers under which they would leave of their own accord.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.