Gov't to decide which outposts illegal
Within three months, government plans to make a list of West Bank outposts slated for evacuation. Until then, quiet negotiations have started between gov't and settler leaders hoping to reach agreement by which settlers will leave voluntarily
After repeatedly committing to evacuate illegal outposts in the West Bank and failing to progress towards doing so, the government announced that within three months it will make a list of outposts slated for evacuation.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak hope to coordinate the evacuation with the settlers. Aiming to reach agreements with settler leaders, there have been "quiet contacts" between the two sides in recent days.
The defense minister instructed that the negotiations stick to three basic principles: No illegal settlement can be transferred to another illegal site; the problem of an illegal settlement cannot be solved "by creating another problem"; and no new settlements will be established.
On Sunday the ministerial committee responsible for the matter, headed by Haim Ramon, will meet for the first time this year. Members of the committee will be debriefed by representatives of the Prime Minister's Office, the Justice Ministry and Attorney Talia Sasson, who wrote the Sasson Report on illegal outposts.
The defense establishment currently holds a list of 89 outposts suspected of being illegal, 26 of which were established after 2001 after the start of former PM Ariel Sharon's administration.
Sunday's discussion will be the first in a series of meetings preceding the High Court of Justice deliberation on the evacuation of the Migron outpost, following a petition by Peace Now.
"I hope that within three months the committee will be able to set clear regulations for planning and building in the West Bank, after clear laws have been lacking for 40 years," Ramon said. "The committee's work will let the government officially establish which West Bank outposts are legal and which aren't."
The left wing, including the Labor party, snubbed the government for renewing old promises that they failed to make good on. According to MK Ophir Pines, for example, "This is an attempt to throw sand in the public's eyes. The Olmert government is buying time instead of clearing the outposts. They are forgetting that discussions ended a long time ago, and now is the time for action."