Outpost evacuation planning begins

Top on the list: Maon Farm, Scali Farm, Hill 725 outside Yitzhar, Givat Arusi.

illegal outpost 88 (photo credit: )
illegal outpost 88
(photo credit: )
Security officials held the first operational meeting on Wednesday to plan the evacuation of illegal outposts. Earlier this week security officials said that within a few weeks they planned to evacuate four unauthorized outposts whose members had a history of violent clashes with neighboring Palestinians and/or the IDF. Top on the list was Maon Farm along with Scali Farm, Hill 725 outside Yitzhar and Givat Arusi. But on Wednesday police took a step back, saying that key details such as which outposts were to be evacuated were still undecided, and that their names were not mentioned at the meeting - despite rumors to the contrary. "This meeting was designed to begin to prepare the groundwork for the evacuation," said one senior police officer, emphasizing that the police were already prepared to carry out the evacuation at any time in the near future. Nevertheless, police sources said it was likely the evacuation was still weeks away, and that further planning was still necessary. The meeting was led by Cmdr. Bertie Ohayon, commander of police operations, and included senior staff representatives, as well as an IDF representative and representation from the Prisons Service. Described as a "planning" meeting, the officers reportedly delineated areas of responsibility, "as was determined by authorized figures in the Israel Police and the IDF," police said Wednesday. Hoping to save the outposts, members of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip have been holding talks this week with government officials, including with Defense Minister Amir Peretz, whom they met on Sunday. The council is looking beyond the four outposts to the overall issue of the 105 unauthorized outposts, 24 of which the government has already agreed to remove in addition to the four outposts that it began speaking of this week. "It's likely that we are going to have to come to some agreement over the outposts," said council spokeswoman Emily Amrusi. But there is no formal proposal on the table, she added, and all talks to that effect are informal. At this stage the council is simply trying to prevent immediate evacuations at the same time that it is also looking at the larger picture, said Amrusi. She noted that the council had already made one deal over the outposts in the past with former prime minister Ehud Barak in which it agreed that some outposts would be dismantled while others would be allowed to remain. Tzvika Bar-Hai, who heads the Southern Hebron Hills Regional Council, said he was hopeful that the council could reach a deal that would prevent outposts demolitions, but that the government was not interested in reconsidering the issue of Maon Farm. "They don't want to talk about Maon Farm, but we're hoping we will be able to do something about the others," said Bar-Hai.