JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says he plans to invest great efforts in a bid to mend fences with settlers.
In a Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee session Monday, Sharon said he plans to meet with would-be evacuees once they are settled in their new homes. Some Knesset members said they understood Sharon also plans a Gush Katif visit.
During the meeting, Sharon also noted that the West Bank town of Hebron is a “strategic Jewish asset.”
Knesset Member Yossi Sarid responded by saying that “30 years ago we tried to explain to Sharon not to build in Gaza…he has the chutzpa to tell us what’s a strategic asset and what isn’t.”
Meanwhile, Sharon is slated to meet with Gaza settler leaders Tuesday. The settlers are expected to ask the prime minister to boost the compensation offered to evacuees. Senior officials at the Prime Minister’s Office said Sharon has secretly met with settler leaders in the past few weeks.
'Bulldozers would ruin our good reputation’
Sharon’s comments are reminiscent of an executioner who shows kindness to those condemned to death, Knesset Member Effie Eitam said.
“The prime minister wants to bury the life work of thousands of settlers from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza,” he said.
On another front, Sharon said the government has already decided to raze the homes of Gaza evacuees, but noted several ministers asked him to reconsider the matter. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres is in charge of the issue, Sharon said, and added an agreement with the Palestinian on the fate of the homes has not yet been reached.
Opposition Leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid asked Sharon to declare that settler houses would remain intact.
“The bulldozers would ruin our good reputation, and instead of praising the disengagement, they would say we razed homes,” he said. “We should only raze synagogues.”