Peretz: Timetable for Evacuation of Outposts to Be Drawn Up Soon

Defense Min. tells PM negotiations with settlers have failed; Yesha: Peretz trying to better standing in Labor.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Monday that a timetable for the evacuation of unauthorized West Bank settlement outposts would be formulated soon.

"Despite all the attempts to reach an agreement with the Yesha Council representatives, we have been unable, unfortunately, to reach an agreement that we find satisfactory."

According to Peretz, he has informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of the defense establishment's intention to begin the evacuation process. "The timetables, according to law and according to government decisions, must be coordinated," he said.

Yesha Council sources denied Peretz's assertion that the negotiations have reached a dead end. "It appears that Peretz believes a declaration of war against us will help him in the internal Labor Party elections," said the sources.

PM rejects Peretz plan to evacuate illegal outpostsOlmert on Sunday rejected Peretz's proposal to evacuate several illegal West Bank outposts. In a routine work meeting between the two, Peretz suggested three or four possible outposts. Olmert replied that the timing is not right.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Peretz proposed tiny outposts with just a few trailers. The sources say the premier is in favor of removing illegal outposts, but supports developing a comprehensive plan on the matter.

Olmert told Peretz they would determine the proper timing together.

Israel is committed to former prime minister Ariel Sharon's promise to the Washington administration to dismantle illegal outposts created since 2001. The cabinet has debated the matter several times, but not a single outpost has been dismantled in practice.

In December, Haaretz reported that civil administration figures showed 200 structures were erected in late 2006 at various outposts.

In the summer, Peretz promised U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that he would be receiving the army's plan for dismantling outposts after the Jewish holidays in the fall. The Israel Defense Forces has rejected recent Peretz initiatives to evacuate outposts, at one point because of the second Lebanon war and at another due to escalating terror.

The defense minister's office has launched negotiations with settler leaders in efforts to reach understandings and common language on voluntary evacuation, but has made little headway. The Bush administration has meanwhile lessened pressure to evacuate the illegal outposts in the West Bank.