Israeli government, settlers to cooperate in West Bank move (REUTERS) By Dan Williams JERSALEM, ISRAEL 06/20/12 3:29am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - A cluster of Jewish settlers slated for eviction under an
Israeli court order said on Wednesday they would go quietly, sparing
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a showdown with a core constituency.
The 30 families living in five unlicensed apartment blocs in Beit El
accepted a government proposal to move them, and physically relocate
the buildings, while the state would also erect 300 new homes
elsewhere in their West Bank settlement.
"We are peaceful people," the settlers said in a statement after
overnight negotiations between Beit El´s chief rabbi and Netanyahu
aides. "Fraternal struggles rupture all of society ... and consume
our creative energies, which are meant to be building up the nation."
Israel´s Supreme Court had ruled that the apartment blocs, on Beit
El´s Ulpana hill, should be torn down by July 1 as they sit on
privately owned Palestinian land.
That promised a major test for Netanyahu, who is loath either to
upset his ultranationalist base or defy Israel´s judiciary over
policy in the West Bank.
Israel is already hard-put to defend settlement activity in the face
of world opinion. Palestinians, who seek statehood in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, fear the enclaves built on land Israel captured in a
1967 war will deny them a viable country.
There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu spokesmen on the Ulpana
deal. But an official briefed on the negotiations said the settlers´
statement was accurate, and that the government would ask the Supreme
Court to postpone the Ulpana razings until October so engineers can
Netanyahu wants to dismantle the structures and rebuild them
elsewhere, to avoid footage of bulldozers and debris recalling
Israel´s removal of 8,000 Jews from Gaza, another Palestinian
territory, in 2005. That pullout still stirs great settler resentment.
Some 311,000 Israeli settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in
the West Bank. The United Nations deems all settlements in the West
Bank to be illegal. Israel disputes this and has sanctioned 120
official settlements, most of them built on land which had no
registered owner when it was seized in 1967.
But the anti-settlement group Peace Now says roughly 9,000 homes were
built on land listed as owned by Palestinians. The fate of some of
those houses is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is yet
to rule on a number of ongoing cases.
Another demand by the Ulpana settlers was that Netanyahu guarantee
there would be no more "absurd announcements and decisions about
destroying blossoming neighborhoods and communities". (Writing by Dan
Williams, Editing by Jeffrey Heller) (© Thomson Reuters 2012.
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