Exclusive: Yesha backs bid to win land in Israel for evacuees (JERUSALEM POST) By MATTHEW GUTMAN 02/03/05)
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The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza
Strip (Yesha Council), the nerve center of Israel´s largest anti-
disengagement juggernaut, is quietly supporting a legal forum that is
lobbying the government for land inside Israel to relocate several
Gush Katif settlements, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The council´s stance is eliciting cries of hypocrisy from groups both
to the left and the right of the council. It is even sparking
speculation that the settlement´s governing body has secretly
forsaken the Gaza Strip, and that settler leaders are instead
focusing on preventing a larger Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank
in the future. But settler leaders said they were seeking "insurance"
should the campaign against disengagement fail.
Zvi Hendel, the only Knesset member living in Gush Katif and a key
opponent of disengagement, appointed the forum to investigate the
feasibility of moving several settlements, including his own
community, Ganei Tal, to land inside Israel. He kept the forum secret
until the Post questioned him about it on Tuesday.
"I am for Gush Katif," Hendel told the Post. "But if we lose this
struggle, we need to do something to ensure that we stay a
While the legal forum is hunting for ways to secure the Nitzanim
coast as a new beachhead for the Gaza settlements, over the past
several months many individual Gush Katif residents were practically
branded traitors for expressing their willingness to move.
"We continue to fight for Gush Katif," said Avner Shimoni, head of
the Hof Aza Regional Council, justifying the umbrella council´s
stance, "but who says the government should be allowed to cripple us
and then rob us too?"
Still, Shimoni admitted that the council´s support of relocating to
the Nitzanim beach area as many settlers as are willing to move
there "presents us with an inherent problem."
But Shimoni said he must also "look to the day after the evacuation,
though I pray it won´t happen."
He and the spokeswoman for the settlers´ council, Emily Amrusi,
agreed that Gush Katif residents "need an insurance policy" for the
Currently, said Shimoni, the government´s compensation package
was "pitiful," and efforts to move the communities in full were aimed
at preventing "psychological damage" in the future. Research
conducted on the evacuees of the Sinai settlement of Yamit showed
that those who left in groups fared much better than those who
started anew independently.
Right-wing activists from National Jewish Front Party head Baruch
Marzel to Kahane Chai activist Itamar Ben-Gvir slammed those involved
with the plan and called for their resignation. Marzel specifically
called upon Hendel on Wednesday to resign from the Knesset after his
involvement with the legal forum surfaced.
In a campaign such as the one against disengagement, said an
incredulous Ben-Gvir, "the most vital thing is our belief in the path
and our victory, and if these people do not believe in those things
then they should quit and go home."
The "Nitzanim Plan" calls for as many settlers as are willing to move
into an area about 20,000 dunams in size along the beach, located
between Ashdod and Ashkelon. Several communities would arise along
that beach, which would include farms and greenhouses, according to
Yitzhak Meron, who heads the Evacuation-Compensation Bill Knesset
Action Team for the Legal Forum. He and Shimoni both noted that
Nitzanim is closest to Gush Katif in terrain and location.
Standing in the way of the settlers are no longer politicians, but
merely "turtle eggs, a few dunes and a little IDF base," according to
Meron, who is among 100 lawyers working for the forum – all on a pro-
The Disengagement Authority and the government have balked at handing
Nitzanim over to the settlers because it is home to a nature
preserve, a key birthing spot for sea turtles and an IDF base.
"This is ridiculous," said Meron. "They are willing to evacuate 8,000
settlers, but can´t make arrangements for them in the one place they
want to build their new homes." Meron was confident that the
government will find space for the settlers in Nitzanim.
Yet for the settlers´ council, and specifically for Hendel, there was
a silver lining. Reached at his home in the Tel Aviv neighborhood of
Ramat Aviv, Yahad MK Yossi Sarid issued rare praise for Hendel for
what he called a realistic and practical approach.
"It´s his right and obligation to fight against the plan, but I am
glad that he knows he has to then accept decisions when they are
made," Sarid said. "My office in the Knesset is next to his and I
told him that if he is left homeless by the disengagement, he and his
family can live with us. I guess my offer scared him enough to seek
other accommodations." Gil Hoffman contributed to this report. (©
1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/03/05)
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