PM, Barak Cut Deal to Evacuate Illegal Outposts

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have agreed on a plan to evacuate illegal outposts in the West Bank, mainly those located on Palestinian land, within weeks, Defense Ministry sources told Haaretz yesterday.

The sources said Barak intends to dismantle a number of outposts out of 26 illegal ones. "It is up to him entirely, and on the time and circumstances he sees fit. Netanyahu won't make difficulties. They're in sync," a source said.

Ministers, including those from Likud, said yesterday that Netanyahu probably promised United States President Barack Obama in their meeting that Israel would dismantle outposts soon.

Barak told the Yesha settlers council yesterday that Israel will dismantle the illegal outposts by force if dialogue proves fruitless. Barak is trying to reach an agreement with the settlers on dismantling the outposts.

"We will dismantle the illegal outposts," Barak said. "If it won't be through understanding, it will be done quickly and by force."

Evacuating illegal outposts in the West Bank is expected to be the Netanyahu government's first gesture toward Obama and the Palestinian Authority.

This is part of the "price" Netanyahu paid Obama in exchange for the latter's statements about Iran's nuclearization, the sources said.

Sources close to Barak said yesterday that the first outposts are expected to be evacuated within a few weeks - either with the settlers' agreement or by force.

Before going to Washington, Netanyahu and chief of policy planning Ron Dermer drafted the new government's policy principals. The document, which Netanyahu issued for distribution only after meeting Obama, says Israel is ready to evacuate the illegal outposts. As for stopping construction in the settlements the document was more cagey, saying the settlements were not an obstacle to peace and that the evacuation of settlements in Gaza only led to the establishment of a Hamas terror base in the Gaza Strip.

During the meeting, held at the minister's bureau in Tel Aviv, Barak went on to say, "We can't compromise on law enforcement. A sovereign country that seeks life must enforce its laws and implement the state's authority over its citizens."

He said the new Israeli government would take action against the outposts, not because it was told to do so by the United States, but because Israel "is a state of law."

Barak added that the illegal outposts cause extensive damage to Israel in the international arena, and even weaken the settler movement. Therefore, he said, the problem of the unauthorized outposts should be addressed first and foremost.

The meeting, called by the Yesha Council, included several settler demands. The council asked that the construction in the West Bank settlements be unfrozen, that Jewish communities in the West Bank be afforded conditions for a normal lifestyle and that certain security concerns be addressed.