Gaza Settlers to Offer Peaceful Pullout for More Compensation

Settlers to meet with Sharon for first time since pullout announced, but most Gaza leaders continue to refuse contact with PM's bureau.

Gaza Strip settlers are slated to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon next week, for the first time since the disengagement plan was announced, and ask the prime minister for increased compensation payments in exchange for a peaceful evacuation.

The settler leaders invited to the meeting said they represent a significant proportion of the residents of the Gaza settlement bloc of Gush Katif, who they said understand the need to work at easing the inevitable evacuation.

However, it remains unclear how many settlers are actually represented by those planning to attend the meeting.

Most of the Gush Katif leaders continue to refuse to have contact with the Prime Minister's Bureau or the Disengagement Administration, and a major settlers conference took place Thursday in the Gaza settlement of Neveh Dekalim aimed at strengthening the belief that the pullout can still be thwarted.

Soldiers evacuating settlements won't be armed Soldiers and policemen who evacuate settlements under the disengagement plan will be unarmed, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi agreed Thursday at a meeting with leaders of the Yesha Council of settlements and MK Effi Eitam (Religious Zionism).

Ezra also said that settlers will be asked to turn in their arms voluntarily shortly before the evacuation begins, but the weapons will not be collected forcibly.

Finally, the police will not employ agents provocateurs among the settlers, while the settlers will try to oust any troublemakers from within their ranks.

The two sides also agreed to continue meeting, with the next session slated to focus on evacuating women and children and bereaved families with loved ones buried in Gush Katif.

Eitam said after the meeting that since the disengagement is expected to involve tens of thousands of civilians and security personnel, it is important to formulate mutually agreed rules and procedures in advance. "We have not accepted the disengagement; on the contrary," he said. "But this is a mass struggle that must be waged responsibly, so that the State of Israel does not topple into an abyss from which there is no return."

Ezra, however, rejected settlers' predictions that 100,000 people will flood Gush Katif during the disengagement, saying he believes relatively few will come.

Pinhas Wallerstein, head of the Benjamin Regional Council, boycotted Thursday's meeting, saying he was unwilling to sit with Likud ministers who support the disengagement.