Rightist MKs Blast Labor Bill to Compensate Settler Evacuation

Barak: Labor bill would compensate residents of settlements east of the fence who decide to leave voluntarily.

Right-wing members of Knesset members leveled harsh criticism at Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday, after he announced that his Labor Party intends to present a bill that would provide compensation to West Bank settlers east of the separation fence who volunteer to leave their homes.

The bill was authored by MK Colette Avital and Minister Ami Ayalon of Labor, in cooperation with Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan.

Barak also told the cabinet that Israel will make an effort to remove the illegal West Bank settlement outposts in coordination with the settlers. "We are conducting a dialogue with the settlers, and we will try to reach an understanding," he said. "It is the obligation of the government in a law-abiding country to implement its decisions and enforce the law."

Following Barak's announcement, National Union-National Religious Party Chairman Uri Ariel said he intends to put a similar bill on the Knesset table that would compensate Israeli Arabs to leave their homes, and in his words, return to their countries.

MK Zvi Hendel, who was evacuated from his Gush Katif home during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza, called on the defense minister to silence himself and focus on defense issues alone. Hendel sarcastically proposed implementing such bill for Sderot residents and neighboring Negev residents whose homes are subject to barrages of rockets from Gaza, and also on Kiryat Shmona residents, who are closest to the threats of the Hezbollah.

Moshe Feiglin, chairman of the Jewish Leadership sub-faction of the Likud party, said in responde to the bill that "not only do the settlers deserve, but also Sderot and Ashkelon residents deserve the option to be compensated and leave."

The Yesha Council of Settlements slammed the bill and released a statement saying, "Barak does not understand that the public in Judea and Samaria will noy be traded for his principles and will not sell their loyalty to the Land of Israel in exchange for bribery and financial profit."

"It's better that the minister deals with the solution to Israel's real security problems- Qassam rocket firing and the Iranian threat - instead of dealing with expelling Jews from their homes," the council wrote.

During the cabinet meeting, Barak also briefed the ministers on his meetings with senior figures in U.S. President George Bush's administration at the Annapolis peace conference last week. He met with Vice President Richard Cheney, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, amongst others.

The defense minister said they showed a great understanding of Israel's security needs.

Barak added that the summit was a good beginning, though only actions would prove its success.

Barak also informed the ministers that in recent days the Israel Defense Forces has intensified its operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.