Barak: Israel will remove illegal outposts by force, if needed
Defense Minister tells settler council illegal West Bank outposts harm Israel and settlers' interests.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Yesha settler council on Wednesday that Israel will dismantle the illegal outposts by force if dialogue proves fruitless.
"We will dismantle the illegal outposts," Barak said. "If it won't be through understanding, it will be done quickly and by force."
During the meeting, held at the minister's bureau in Tel Aviv, Barak went on to say that "we can't compromise on law enforcement. A sovereign country that seeks life must enforce its laws and implement the state's authority over its citizens."
He said the new Israeli government of hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he had joined would take action against the outposts, not because it was told to do so by the United States, but because Israel "is a state of law."
Barak added that the illegal outposts cause extensive damage to Israel in the international arena, and even weaken the settler movement. Therefore, he said, the problem of the unauthorized outposts should be addressed first and foremost.
The meeting, called by the Yesha council, included several settler demands. The council asked that the construction in the West Bank settlements be unfrozen, that Jewish communities in the West Bank be afforded conditions for a normal lifestyle and that certain security concerns be addressed.
Among other things, the council heads asked the defense minister to prevent the planned budget cuts in settler security measures and the planned removal of travel restrictions currently imposed against the Palestinians. These two requests were described by Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan as "life and death matters that could endanger the lives of Israeli citizens."
Some 100 outposts, set up independently by Jewish settlers without formal government approval, are scattered throughout the West Bank.
These outposts exist next to the 121 authorized West Bank settlements, which are legal under Israeli law
The 2003 road map agreement authored by the quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - the U.S., Europe, United Nations and Russia - calls on Israel to uproot all outposts erected since March 2001 and to freeze all construction in the other settlements.
The Netanyahu government has said it will abide by the road map, but not move on to serious negotiations on a final peace deal until all of its preliminary clauses are met. Under it, the Palestinians are called on to fight militants.