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The settlers council shrugged off reports over the weekend that some disgruntled communities with secular populations in Samaria are seeking to start an alternative and more moderate leadership group.
Even if it is true, they will not weaken the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, because those who were thinking of forming the new group had already left the council anyway, said its spokeswoman, Emily Amrusy.
A number of communities with specific local interests that banded together to lobby for their needs cannot replicate the breadth of the council's infrastructure and influence based on close to three decades of work, she said.
"It's a brand name that is hard to replace," said Amrusy.
Still, in spite of its history and its recent attempts to unify the settler community, the council is under attack from both the left and the right-wing groups within the territories. Those on the right are blasting it for being too moderate and those on the left believe it is too extreme.
Among the more moderate group of settlers is Avi Naim, who heads the Beit Aryeh and Ofarim Council. He is hoping to start an alternative leadership group that would represent the interests of more moderate settlements that are within the fence.
"The council doesn't represent us," said Naim. He said he was particularly dismayed by its attitude toward the army and the police during disengagement. "The hilltop youth believe it is too moderate but for us it is too extreme," he said.
"We don't call ourselves settlers, we are part of Israel," he said. Alfei Menashe and Oranit are among the communities which he believes would join the group. He is also hopeful that the city of Ariel will work with them.
Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman said he was approached by Hasdai Eliezer, a former deputy chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, to see if he was interested in joining the new group.
Nahman said he had made no decisions on the matter but added that there was a need for a group to represent the more local interests of communities in Samaria, particularly those with secular residents.
Ninety percent of the Ariel residents are secular, he said. The council's religious leadership doesn't speak to them, he added. "They don't even understand the language," he said. One of the original founders of the Council, Nahman said that he has not taken part in it since 1994.
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