Barak hopes for deal with settlers

Defense minister meets with Yesha Council leaders, but Samaria Council head boycotts meeting.

ehud barak 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
ehud barak 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak hopes to reach an agreement with settler leaders that will enable the evacuation of 23 illegal outposts in the West Bank without the need for military or police intervention, officials said Monday following a meeting with Yesha Council heads. Barak met with the Yesha Council leaders for the first time in several months to discuss the ongoing standoff over the government's declared intention to evacuate 23 illegal outposts in the West Bank. During the meeting, Barak stressed that the outposts would be evacuated in line with decisions made by previous Israeli governments led by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. The settler leaders asked Barak to first lift the ban on construction in the West Bank and then deal with the outposts. Barak told them that the construction ban was a diplomatic issue between Israel and the United States and was not connected to the illegal outposts. "This is a law-abiding government and people cannot just do what they want," he told the settler leaders. At the end of the meeting, the sides agreed to maintain an open line of communication in an effort to reach a peaceful resolution. Meanwhile, Gershon Mesika head of the Samaria Regional Council, decided not to attend the meeting. "This is a political farce - the cards have been stacked ahead of this game. This is not about legality of the outposts," he said in a statement. "Barak's right hand has been evading proper procedure and for years has refused to sign legal building permits because of his political views, and now his left hand wishes to destroy those same communities that he calls illegal because he himself did not approve them." Mesika went on to say that "Netanyahu is hiding behind Barak as he kneels to American pressure, and Ehud Barak is hiding behind weak excuses of upholding law and order". David Ha'ivri, director of the Samaria Liaison Office, was equally critcal of the defsne minister. "Yesterday they issued demolition orders for the homes of 15 families in our communities, the only thing holding back these houses permits are one signature: that of Ehud Barak," he said. "Now he wants to tell us to enforce his law. Israel is not a monarchy and Barak is not our king, somebody needs to tell him that he had elections and his ilk no longer rule this country." "We have had enough of the double standard, there are thousands of illegal buildings throughout the Arab sector on both sides of the Green Line, yet for some reason only Jewish homes are threatened by demolition crews," concluded Ha'ivri.