Lieberman named to outposts panel

Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu), a strong opponent of dismantling settlement outposts, was appointed to the ministerial committee on outposts by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday. Spokeswoman Irena Etinger said Lieberman would not comment on the appointment but said that his views on the outposts were well known. Olmert's office confirmed that Lieberman was appointed to the six-person body, saying he would replace recently resigned science, sports and culture minister Ophir Paz-Pines. The other five are members of Kadima and Labor, so the new addition is not likely to prevent approval of removing outposts, if Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz of Labor decide to do so. Under the road map, Israel has promised to dismantle some two dozen outposts established since March 2001. More than 100 outposts are listed in a March 2005 government report. On Thursday morning, before the official announcement was made, Peretz denied media reports that Lieberman would be taking the place of Paz-Pines on the committee. Peretz said in a statement that another minister from the Labor Party would take Paz-Pines's place. Olmert's spokeswoman Miri Eisin said dismantling outposts is part of the government program, and Lieberman must go along. "As long as he votes with government policies, he'll be in the government," she said. "If he votes against government policy, he won't be in the government." AP contributed to this report.