The Yesha Council has been negotiating with the IDF and the defense ministry for several days and offering to evacuate the outpost of Ginot Ariyeh, near the West Bank settlement of Ofra, themselves. But they want the prime minister to allow them to move the outpost's 12 mobile homes into the confines of the nearby larger settlement of Ofra.

Yesterday morning before the cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told Prime Minister Sharon of the offer, but he refused to accept it.

Yesha Council spokesman Yehoshua Mor-Yosef yesterday said: "We agreed to evacuate Ginot Ariyeh of our own free will after no small amount of soul-searching. The initiative was approved at all IDF levels and the Defense Ministry, but the prime minister says he is unwilling to approve it."

The Yesha Council was reportedly shocked at Sharon's reply and views it as a sign that he is seeking a violent evacuation of the outpost to prove his sincerity to the U.S. and the Palestinians.

Evacuation and moving of mobile homes to a larger, legal settlement was "done in the past during the tenure of Ehud Barak, and even when Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was defense minister. But this time it is clear there is no one to talk to. There is a complete disconnection between us and the prime minister."

The Yesha Council will submit a petition the High Court of Justice today against accelerating the evacuation of outposts by order of the prime minister.

This is being done at three other illegal outposts beside Ginot Ariyeh - Bat Ayin West West, Havat Shaked, and Hazon David - as well as two outposts ordered evacuated yesterday, Havat Maon and Tal Benyamin.

Of the five outposts, only Ginot Ariyeh is permanently inhabited. On Monday morning, residents of Ginot Ariyeh found evacuation orders of the civil administration posted on their doors, giving them three days to appeal the decision before a special judicial committee within the defense establishment.

At the weekend, a number of objections were offered to the committee and the evacuation has been delayed until a decision on the objections is made. The heads of the Yesha Council described the atmosphere among the settlers as "hysterical" as it appeared that Sharon was determined to go ahead with the evacuations.

Yesha Council sources yesterday said the legal battle they were planning was their last resort before evacuation.

"The obstinacy of the government to continue issuing evacuation orders although these have so far failed the judicial test, proves that this is not about a policy of enforcing the law, but about surrendering to American pressure and to terror," said the head of the Benjamin Regional Council, Pinhas Wallerstein. "This is not about outposts but is rather a struggle for the future of Zionism," said Wallerstein.

The director-general of Peace Now, Yariv Oppenheimer, called the latest order to evacuate the outposts at Havat Maon and Tal Benyamin "a drop in the sea of outposts."

Yariv added that he was "not surprised that Sharon and Mofaz chose to deal with small and unimportant outposts," rather than larger ones.