Lieberman to Join Ministerial Panel on Dismantling Outposts

Peretz: No link between Lieberman appointment, Pines-Paz departure; Pines-Paz: Peretz must oppose appointment.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has named the newly appointed minister for strategic threats, Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu), to the ministerial committee on the removal illegal outposts in the West Bank.

It was initially reported that Lieberman would replace Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz, who resigned as Minister of Culture and Sports last week in protest at Lieberman's inclusion in the government.

But Peretz said later Thursday that while Lieberman was joining the panel, he would not be replacing Pines-Paz and that the seat vacated by the former minister would go to another Labor Party minister.

Pines-Paz on Thursday urged his party chairman, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, to oppose Liberman's appointment to the panel.

The rightist minister, who is staunchly opposed to the removal of illegal outposts, will now be a member of a six-member committee in charge of dismantling of settlements built on land that is not permitted for construction use and/or has disputed ownership between Jews and Palestinians.

The panel acts on the recommendations of a report compiled by the former head of the state prosecutor's criminal department, attorney Talia Sasson, and submitted to the government. (Click here for a March 2005 report on Sasson's findings).

Pines-Paz told Haaretz that Lieberman's appointment only reinforces the message in the speech of writer David Gorssman at the memorial for Yitzhak Rabin on Saturday, in which he compared Lieberman's appointment as minister for strategic threats to "the appointment of a habitual pyromaniac as director of the nation's firefighters."

According to Pines-Paz, Peretz' and Labor's decision to hand the committee seat over, "takes from the party the opportunity to influence the panel's decisions."

Pines-Paz alternatively suggested that the panel be dispersed altogether, in light of the "strange move" of appointing a man who has openly declared that he is against the dismantlement of any outposts.

The committee is headed by acting Justice Minister Meir Sheetrit; its other members include Olmert, Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, Peretz and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon.

Sheetrit, who replaced Haim Ramon as justice minister and committee chairman, has not yet convened the panel since his appointment. He says he needs more time to "study the matter."

Talia Sasson told Haaretz Thursday morning that she prefers not to comment on the committee's members, but she does hope that the appointment of a new minister would remind the government and the premier that the report must be implemented.