Settler poll: 18% back voluntary evacuation

Ofarim and Beit Aryeh are concerned about being excluded from the security fence.

beit aryeh 298.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
beit aryeh 298.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Voluntary evacuation is not a popular question in the two Samaria settlements of Beit Aryeh and Ofarim, which are among 38 communities on the other side of the security fence. Only 22 percent of the 900 families that live in the two settlements responded to a unofficial poll asking if they would be willing to evacuate if their communities remained outside the fence. The government and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have promised the two hilltop settlements overlooking Ben-Gurion International Airport that their exclusion is only temporary. By May, the government promises to build a mushroom-shaped fence that would surround the two settlements and the link them to the rest of the country with a thin stem-like strip. But not everyone in the two settlements believes their assurances. Some feel hemmed in by the proposed mushroom-shaped fence and prefer one that would arch more. Earlier this month, one skeptical member of the joint Beit Aryeh and Ofarim council, Avinoam Magen, sent out a non-official referendum to each household asking if residents would willingly evacuate should the government either fails to build a fence or if it constructs the mushroom shaped one. Of the 206 respondents, 170 said they were willing to leave if a fence was not built or if one was built in the shape of a mushroom. The remaining 31 said they would accept the mushroom-shaped fence. Council head Avi Naim, who is satisfied with the mushroom-shaped fence, dismissed as "nonsense" the unofficial referendum results. "It's craziness, no one is taking it seriously except for the reporters," he told The Jerusalem Post. A fence could not be built in the shape of an arc because of the proximity of Palestinian land to the two settlements, Naim said. He added that he believed the government would construct the fence and that, to the best of his knowledge, work was already under way. But Magen defended his poll explaining that the response of 170 people to an unofficial poll was very significant. The government should think twice before it spends $50 million to construct a fence that no one wants, he said. He and the 170 residents of Beit Aryeh and Ofarim are not alone in contemplating voluntary evacuation should they remain outside the fence. A new movement called One House, created earlier this year, is calling for the voluntary evacuation of the 80,000 residents of the 38 settlements outside the fence. A July poll that the organization conducted showed that 35% would be willing to leave if the government compensated them for their homes. On Monday, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz submitted a bill to the Knesset that would grant compensation to settlements in Judea and Samaria if 60% of the residents would agree to voluntarily leave.