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Seven-day Nitzanim offer was not an ultimatum, state says (JERUSALEM POST) By DAN IZENBERG 05/24/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1116901694095 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni did not issue an ultimatum to Gaza Strip settlers when she declared last week that they have seven days to sign up for housing in the Nitzanim area, the state told the High Court of Justice on Tuesday in response to a request by settlers for an interim injunction.

As of last week 426 Gaza residents had informed the government, with the help of a non-binding form circulated by a group of maverick settlers, that they would be willing to relocate to the Nitzan and north Ashkelon area.

Last week, Livni allegedly said in a news conference that settlers had until Wednesday to sign onto the north Ashkelon and Nitzan plan, otherwise known as the Nitzanim plan.

On Tuesday, the state explained that Livni was letting the settlers know that they must decide quickly whether they want to live in temporary housing in the Nitzanim area over the next few years. A spokesman for the Prime Minister´s Office director-general Ilan Cohen added that the intent of Livni´s statements was to emphasize the point that the sooner the settlers let the government know what they want, the sooner it can plan alternatives for them.

As the disengagement deadline approaches, the time constraints involved mean that less options are available, the spokesman said.

The temporary housing project, which is urgent, has nothing to do with the establishment of permanent communities for the settlers in Nitzanim. The state explained that it will take a long time to prepare the framework for permanent housing and that the settlers do not have to rush to make up their minds on that matter.

To counter the appearance that settlers are willing to leave, close to 1,000 settlers have signed at least one of four anti- disengagement forms being circulated in Gush Katif by members of the Hof Aza Regional Council, its spokesman Eran Sternberg told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

None of the petitions mentioned the Nitzanim plan, he said, because from the council´s perspective, there is no Nitzanim plan.

One form out of Neveh Dekalim, which has the support of 400 families, calls for group unity in the face of the disengagement plan and calls for the residents of Gaza to stay together as a group even if disengagement takes place.

"The right way to deal with the threat of evacuation is through community unity," said the petition.

Those who sign promise to fight stay in their settlements through every legal and democratic means and to refrain from talking with those connected to the Disengagement Authority. It asks people to swear to work for the rights of all Gaza residents, even in the event that disengagement comes to pass.

A second form asks residents to affirm that their interests are being represented by the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, which has represented the settlers in many of its interactions with the government, said Sternberg. A third form asks residents to refuse any plan that calls for them to be relocated to temporary housing, a move that is now the subject of a petition to the High Court of Justice. A fourth form calls on residents to only engage in activities against disengagement.

Separately, on Tuesday, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger held a discussion in Jerusalem on halachic instructions regarding the evacuation of graves from Gush Katif, but came to no decision.

"The main issue under discussion was the evacuation of graves from Gush Katif. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had requested that the chief rabbis, who are leading halachic authorities, discuss this sensitive issue," they said in a statement released after the meeting.

The central cemetery in Gush Katif serves the entire Jewish population of the Gaza Strip and currently has 48 graves. In accordance with government decisions, the evacuation of the graves will be carried out by the IDF Chaplaincy Corps.

OC Chaplaincy Corps Brig.-Gen. Yisrael Weiss, Ilan Cohen, Disengagement Authority head Yonatan Bassi, Meir Spiegler, the Prime Minister´s Office official responsible for religious services, and several senior rabbis attended the discussion, which was held at the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem.

Cohen said "the government would carry out any solution necessary to appropriately resolve this sensitive issue" and added that the government "will allocate all necessary resources to this end."

To find a solution that will make things as easy as possible for the bereaved families, it was decided that Gush Katif would be visited to examine the issue from close at hand. After the chief rabbis have held talks with representatives of the bereaved families and settler leaders, a final opinion on the issue would be formulated, the statement said. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 05/24/05)


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