Seven-day Nitzanim offer was not an ultimatum, state says (JERUSALEM POST) By DAN IZENBERG 05/24/05)
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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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