Yesha Council Backs Out of Non-violence Agreement

The Yesha Council of Settlements has backed out of an agreement to sign a document of principles meant to set the ground rules for the public debate about the future of the territories and the settlements, including an agreement to avoid and prevent violence.

The document was drafted two weeks ago at the end of discussions that ran over the past year and included leading Yesha officials, such as Yesha Chairman Bentzi Lieberman, his deputy Shaul Goldstein, and the former secretary general Adi Mintz, as well as Uzi Dayan on behalf of the Forum for National Responsibility.

But at the last minute, after agreement had been reached on all the articles in the document, the Yesha Council convened and decided to cancel the process on the grounds it was poorly timed.

Sources in the council explained that most of the members believed publishing the document would be "a shot in the head" of the camp opposed to the disengagement and dismantling of settlements, just as the debate over the disengagement plan gets underway ahead of the Likud party referendum on the plan.

The sources stated explicitly that the Yesha Council joining a commitment that forbids the use of violence in the campaign over the future of the territories would take away an important bargaining card and vital deterrent in the hands of the disengagement opponents' camp.

The initiative for a covenant between the camps divided over the future of the territories came up after the Rabin assassination, "to prevent a split among the people and to enable renewed definitions of common goals," as the document said in its prologue.

According to one of the agreements, the public campaigns and protest activities over the future and character of the country and the settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza would be conducted in the framework of the rules of democracy and the rule of law, while avoiding any expression of violence, both on the part of civilians and law enforcement officials.

According to another of the articles in the document, decisions will only be made by a clear-cut democratic majority that expresses most of the people are behind the decision.