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Barak Plans to Dismantle Some Settlements, Expand Others

Prime Minister Ehud Barak informed leaders of the Council of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza on October 12, 1999, that he intended to order the evacuation of 15 of the 42 outposts recently established in the West Bank. Barak's decision was based upon recommendations from the defense establishment. "I consider settlement activity in the West Bank, which was always conducted at the behest and with the authorization of the Government, very important," Barak said. "But I think the law is of the utmost importance. This will come as no surprise to you. I said during the elections that I would examine the situation regarding the outposts, and I repeated this in our previous meetings."

After the settlers raised objections and threatened to oppose the action, however, Barak negotiated a compromise that reduced the number of outposts (they aren't settlements, merely encampments where settlers hoped to build in the future -- this is how many of the settlements were started) to be dismantled to 12.

Justice Minister Yossi Beilin told Israel Radio, `The compromise itself is very important...This is the first time that settlements will be removed by agreement with the settlers, not in a confrontation with them."

The settlers also claimed victory, saying that the deal meant 30 other outposts would stay put. This was after they'd been told earlier that seven outposts are illegal, 27 received only partial authorization, and only eight had full approval. In addition, they were originally informed that work would be suspended on the 16 outposts that only have partial permits. Building permits in those outposts will no longer be issued, though the outposts will not be dismantled. Barak will maintain the right to dismantle them in the future, if it is necessary within the framework of future West Bank withdrawals and peace arrangements with the Palestinians.

According to Arutz-7, the details of the compromise are as follows:

* Two outposts will be removed totally: K'ramim, adjacent to Kokhav HaShachar (six families) - established after the elections, and the Maon Farm, where Dov Dribben was killed (six buildings). The latter will be moved to a location closer to the community of Maon, no further than 200 meters away from the most outlying homes.

* Four other outposts, currently not populated, will also be uprooted: Shuna, near Eli - from where the lone caravan will be removed, and a water tower will remain; Itur 26, east of Kiryat Arba, and Areas 51 and 52, outside Kiryat Arba - where it is also possible that water towers or fences will remain.

* The families of the Tzufit Farm, near N'vei Tzuf, will leave, but the pre-military yeshiva students will remain, as will the 27 structures. A review of the situation there will be held in six months' time.

* The Magen David farm, one mile from Susia - two caravans will be removed, and two will remain. Two residents will be allowed to continue running the farm for grazing purposes.

* Two large outposts will remain: Haresha, one mile from Talmon, on a hilltop overlooking all of the neighboring communities (10 families), and Adei Ad, one mile from Shvut Rachel (seven families).

* Givat HaChayil, near Itamar (7 buildings) will remain in place in the meantime. After plans for the larger community are expanded, the neighborhood will be re-located within the borders of the expanded community.

* Of the three outposts near Ma'aleh Michmash, one will remain, and a temporary solution will be found for the other two until their approval. Mitzpeh Danny, with its 15 buildings, will remain in place, and its approval and development will even be rushed. The families of Mitzpeh Chagit and N'vei Erez will move to Mitzpeh Danny, but within the next few months the original site of Mitzpeh Chagit will be approved and the residents will return. The five unmarried young men living in N'vei Erez - adjacent to Michmash, overlooking the town's planned cemetery - will be similarly evacuated.

In sum, from the neighborhoods that Ehud Barak had threatened to uproot, 60 out of 75 families will remain.

Palestinian Authority officials, meanwhile, maintain that, even if settlers are evicted from newly occupied sites, the demand that all settlements must be removed because they are illegal has to be addressed if efforts to reach a final peace deal are to move forward. They were also outraged at Barak's decision to sign the tenders for 2,600 new homes in the settlements that were issued by the Housing Ministry in earlier October.

Sources: Israeli Government Press Office, Jerusalem Post, Washington Post, AP, Arutz-7, (October 13-14, 1999)