Ramon looking to compensate settlers

Vice Premier pursuing evacuation-compensation bill for W. Bank residents who leave voluntarily.

otniel schneller 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
otniel schneller 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Vice Premier Haim Ramon's new support of "evacuation compensation" legislation, which would compensate settlers for voluntarily leaving their homes, is actually a litmus test for the prime minister, several MKs said over the weekend. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert does not want to risk supporting the risky legislature himself, so he has sent Ramon to test the waters, charged one Israel Beiteinu MK. "He thinks he can play games behind our back. But we know that Ramon did not come up with the idea to support this out of thin air," the MK said. The Prime Minister's Office has denied the accusations, and stated that Ramon was working on his own accord. The "evacuation compensation" bill was first proposed by the Bayit Echad (One Home) political movement, founded by MKs Colette Avital (Labor) and Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), former Israeli Consul-General to New York Alon Pinkas, Maj.-Gen. Alik Ron (ret.), and former defense minister Dalia Rabin. Unlike the compensation packages offered to the Gaza settlers, which took into account settlers' loss of employment and the number of years they had lived in a settlement, the current bill offers settlers the market value of their homes. Ramon said that according to recent polls, more than 70,000 settlers would be willing to evacuate their homes for monetary compensation. Last week, he held meetings with left-wing MKs in the Knesset to determine the political feasibility for broad-based legislation. So far, it remains unclear if the bill would be able to garner enough of a majority to pass. Two weeks ago, Bayit Echad secured Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's support for the bill. "Since the peace process started back up there has been more dialogue of putting Bayit Echad on the agenda," said Avital. "This is not a left-wing step. This is a program that helps the first step of the road map along... Barak came back from Annapolis with an understanding that he needed to advance things on the ground." Avital added that Bayit Echad was seeking support from the prime minister for its compensation initiative. Bayit Echad hopes to give settlers the chance to leave their homes on their own terms, said Avital. The program seeks to compensate the tens of thousands of settlers who live outside the security barrier's route through the West Bank.