Settler leaders: We must break Netanyahu's 'White Paper'

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Settler leaders warned Saturday night that the 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction was a prelude to the evacuation of their communities, as they urged their residents to mount a stiff non-violent campaign against the decree. They called on settlers to build immediately and to join Wednesday's mass rally in Jerusalem's Paris Square, near Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's residence. "We have to come out in force to break Netanyahu's 'White Paper,'" said Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. He spoke at an emergency meeting in the Ofra settlement in the Binyamin region. "Our fight is to prevent another evacuation of Jews," said Itzik Shadmi, who heads the Binyamin Citizens Committee. "You have to understand that what is happening here is the prelude to an evacuation, and anyone who does not understand this is not facing the truth," Shadmi told a room of settlers and their supporters. He urged everyone to start building immediately. "You have to build a lot and you have to do it intelligently," Shadmi said. This is the time, he said, to build that basement, extra room, porch or gazebo, said Shadmi. "Do not hide it, make sure it can be seen," said Shadmi. Settlements should also put up cheap communal structures, such as an extra club house for teens. They should erect the structures as far away from the settlement gate as possible, so that the inspectors have to pass through the length and breadth of the community to get to them, said Shadmi. This will give residents the maximum amount of opportunity to thwart them from reaching the structures, said Shadmi. He added that it would also be best if a structure was constructed somewhere beyond the reach of a tractor, which could destroy it in seconds. He added that whatever steps were taken, it was important that settlers refrain from violence. "We can win without violence," said Shadmi, who added that violence only harmed their cause. The Binyamin Citizens Committee handed out a two-page sheet to meeting participants with suggestions, some of which, it said, it understood might be premature, such as refusal to do reserve duty or to enter the IDF for the 10-month duration of the freeze. It also suggested that IDF soldiers be evicted from structures they inhabited within the settlements. Shadmi added that they should be forced instead to camp out in tents outside the community's gate, so that residents could use the buildings. Dayan adamantly opposed any suggestions to defer reserve duty or army service. The meeting is one of at least six that the settlers have held since Netanyahu announced the moratorium 12 days ago. On Thursday, after inspectors had pushed their way into most West Bank settlements, settler leaders met with Netanyahu and urged him to rescind the moratorium. They also spoke of the immediate hardship the decree had caused. On Friday, Netanyahu announced the establishment of a committee to look into ways to smooth implementation of the moratorium. Much of Netanyahu's meeting Thursday with the settler leaders dealt with their complaints about the way the moratorium order was being implemented, with Netanyahu taking down 30 points and promising to discuss them with Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Netanyahu and Barak decided Friday to establish the committee to deal with those issues, as well as other issues that may arise during the moratorium period. The committee will be made up of Barak, Minister Bennie Begin - viewed as a key settlement proponent inside the government - Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, and the new Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Brig.-Gen. Eitan Dangot. According to a statement put out by the Prime Minister's Office, the committee will look at ways to strictly implement the moratorium order, while taking into consideration the needs of the residents. Among the issues that the settlement leaders raised were the need to ensure that infrastructure projects, such as sewage and road projects, be allowed to continue, and that people be allowed to carry out home improvements such as closing in patios or adding rooms. The committee's first meeting was held on Friday, and another one is scheduled for Sunday. But in Ofra on Saturday night, Dayan said that the settlers would not be satisfied until the decree had been rescinded altogether. "Establishing a new committee will not help. It will not cause us to give up our fight or to change our focus. "We are not looking for leniency, we have one single objective - and that is to abolish the decree," said Dayan. This is not about people's ability to install air-conditioning in their apartments or to build gazebos in their yards, said Dayan. "We are not willing to accept a policy that says you cannot build in Judea and Samaria," said Dayan. When he met with Netanyahu, said Dayan, the prime minister told them that the step was necessary so that the world would see that Israel was not a country that refused to pursue peace. "There is not a minimum of diplomatic logic to this," said Dayan. He said he believed that even with the moratorium the world would still view Israel as a "peace refuser." "The sacrifice of Jewish flesh," he said, would not change international perceptions of Israel. The international community will say that this step did not go far enough and that Israel should have stopped building in Jerusalem, said Dayan. He rejected any claim that the settlers were undermining the rule of law by working against the moratorium. "There are some things that are so anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist that we can not comply with them," said Dayan. MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) said it was important to widen the argument beyond the historic, religious and strategic importance of Judea and Samaria and to hammer in the point that the Likud Party in declaring this moratorium was itself subverting the democratic process. Israeli voters brought the Likud to power because it promised to build in Judea and Samaria and to support the settlement movement, said Hotovely. Voters have a right to insist that their politicians be held accountable to the pre-election promises that they made, she said. "This is not just a fight for the land of Israel, but for Israeli democracy," she said.