Evacuations planned for 24 outposts

Source tells Post that no date is set; plan complies with promises to US.

illegal outpost 88 (photo credit: )
illegal outpost 88
(photo credit: )
The Defense Ministry is drafting plans to evacuate the 24 outposts which Israel has promised the US that it would remove, according to a security source. A source at the Defense Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that the evacuation plan had yet to be completed or formally approved and that no date had been set for the removal of the unauthorized outposts, constructed after former prime minister Ariel Sharon took office in March 2001. A government source told the Post that negotiations with the settlers regarding the fate of the outposts were ongoing. According to the source, the government is hoping to secure an agreement with the settlers by which the fate of the remaining 81 outposts would be determined as part of the realignment plan - on condition that the settlers allow for the peaceful evacuation of the 24 outposts, the source said. No end date has been set for the negotiations, said the source. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "is trying to reach consensus without friction," said the source. Before the election, he promised to set a course of action through dialogue, and he is making good on that pledge, said the source. MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) told the Post that such talks were ongoing but would not say who was participating in the negotiations. He added that the settlers would be meeting with Olmert on the matter in the near future but that no date had been set for such a meeting. Binyamin Regional Council head Pinchas Wallerstein said that settler leaders had no interest in reaching a compromise on the issue of the outposts. "Evacuating an outpost is the same thing as evacuating a settlement," he said. The purpose of talks settlers leaders have been having with the government is to prevent the destruction of the outpost and to establish a line of communication between the two parties, said Wallerstein. Separately, on Wednesday the Civil Administration renewed and issued demolition orders for 18 homes at the Maon Farm outpost so that the orders handed down last year would not expire. The Civil Administration spokesman said that his office did not have the power to demolish the outpost and could only issue orders that would allow its destruction by the IDF. The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said it had no reaction to the Civil Administration's actions in Maon Farm. Maon Farm is not part of the 24 outposts Israel has promised the US that it would take down but it is one of the 105 unauthorized outposts named in a March 2005 report prepared for the government by attorney Talia Sasson. In March 2004, the High Court of Justice gave the green light for the IDF to evacuate the outpost but no action was taken. A Defense Ministry source told the Post that there were no plans to move against the outpost. An attorney for the outpost, Adi Kedar, accused the Civil Administration of acting against the outpost purely because of recent clashes between its residents and Palestinian children who pass by the outpost on their way to school. The outbreaks started two months ago when the path to the school was rerouted near the settlers' homes at the outpost, he said. On Saturday, May 6, settlers near Maon Farm clashed with IDF troops who were accompanying a group of Palestinian children from school back to their nearby village. According to the army, the settlers laid in ambush and attacked the soldiers as they passed the settlement, located in the South Hebron Hills. Four soldiers and two Palestinians were injured in the clashes. A week earlier, on April 29, a group of settlers attempted to prevent the passage of Palestinian schoolchildren into the area of Maon Farm on Saturday so that they would not come near the settlement. Kedar said that it was the settlers who felt threatened by the IDF and the Palestinians. He even accused the IDF of shooting in the direction of the settlement. Kedar said that when he questioned the IDF about the incident, he was told that it was in response to stone throwing by the settlers. Kedar said that shooting was not an appropriate response to stone throwing. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.