Vilan: Evacuation Compensation Law close

Meretz MK: Passing bill may be up to Kadima MKs; Livni: Issue should be dealt with when borders defined.

Avshalom Vilan 224 88 (photo credit: Knesset Website)
Avshalom Vilan 224 88
(photo credit: Knesset Website)
The Knesset vote on the proposed Evacuation Compensation Law, designed to pay West Bank settlers to move within the Green Line, may come sooner than many thought - and the legislation may be much closer to passing than many opponents think, bill co-sponsor MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) said Sunday. A coalition of left-wing parties - Labor, Meretz and the Arab parties - coupled with the already-declared support of Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan, head of the Gil Pensioners Party, would bring the bill within 20 votes of approval, Vilan said. This scenario would have the bill's fate decided by Kadima MKs, 20 of whom would be needed to get it through a preliminary reading in the Knesset. Kadima's support, for the most part, is awaiting a response from Vice Premier Haim Ramon, who has been tasked by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with assessing the bill's feasibility. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni voiced support for the bill for the first time at a press conference on Sunday with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. But Livni said the bill should not be proposed until after a deal was reached with the Palestinians on Israel's final borders. "As someone who has experienced the whole disengagement process and understands the need to assist those being relocated, I believe that it is only fair to address this as early as possible," she said. "Whoever has settled in a location from which he wants to leave and so long as it is in accordance with the priorities of the State of Israel, the government should provide assistance. But it seems to me that it is still too early. We haven't yet reached a point in negotiations in which the future borders will be defined," she said. Still, Kadima support is far from certain. Party powerhouse Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit told Israel Radio on Sunday that he was against the bill. And in December, MK Otniel Schneller, who lives in the settlement of Ma'aleh Michmash, described the initiative as both "immoral" and "premature." This was the type of bill that should follow a cabinet decision and not preempt it, he said. Only last week, Likud officials said there was no way the government could garner majority support for the bill and that talk about enacting it was unrealistic. An evacuation-compensation bill was first proposed by the Bayit Echad (One Home) political movement, founded by MKs Vilan, Ami Ayalon (Labor) and Colette Avital (Labor), as well as former consul-general to New York Alon Pinkas, former police Cmdr. Alik Ron and former deputy defense minister Dalia Rabin, also of Labor. Unlike the compensation packages offered to the Gaza evacuees, which took into account their loss of employment and the number of years they had lived in a settlement, the current bill would offer West Bank settlers the market value of their homes. Vilan said Sunday that passage of the bill, by encouraging settlers to leave their homes voluntarily, could save 80 percent of the cost of a forced evacuation similar to 2005's disengagement from 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four in northern Samaria.