W. Bank settler leader Benzi Lieberman quits

Settler leader Benzi Lieberman announced on Monday that he plans to resign from his post as the head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria as of January. He is the third settler leader to resign from the council's leadership group this year. In February Hasdai Eliezer and Shaul Goldstein also resigned from that leadership group, but maintained their other positions. Eliezer still heads the Alfei Menashe Council and Goldstein is still the head of Gush Etzion. In exiting his post, Lieberman called for new leadership elections to be held at the start of January, a move that is two years overdue. It was delayed initially because of disengagement in August 2005, and then again because no one appeared interested in running against Lieberman. Council spokeswoman Emily Amrusi downplayed the significance of Lieberman's departure. After five years, she said, it was to be expected that he would be ready to leave the post. In his departure letter to other settler leaders, Lieberman summarized his work in the last five years including the failed battle to stop Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, in which some 8,500 settlers were evacuated. "I tried together with you to portray the council as one that is relevant to Israeli society," he said. Settler leaders, he said, must continue to do everything possible to maintain the settlements in Judea and Samaria. To optimize the "window of opportunity" created following last summer's war in Lebanon that derailed further unilateral withdrawal plans, it was important for the council to widen its leadership body, Lieberman said. The council, he said, was not doing enough to maximize this opportunity.