Settlers Remaining on Other Side of the Fence Are Feeling the Pressure to Leave

The number of settlers seeking to leave settlements not included within the separation fence has increased significantly since disengagement. The trend began before disengagement, but the difficult scenes of settlers leaving homes in the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank have taken their toll, creating increased psychological pressure on the 100,000 or so settlers outside the separation fence who face an uncertain future. More and more people are turning for information to One Home, a movement established to provide answers for settlers seeking to leave their settlements immediately.

Surveys carried out by the movement, which has attracted 160 families in settlements not included in the separation fence, reveal that about 20,000 people would like to come to an arrangement to exchange their house in the territories for a house within the Green Line.

"We are leading a public campaign to raise awareness of this difficult problem to ensure an orderly and structured evacuation," MK Avshalom Vilan (Yahad), one of the founders of One Home, said. "So far we have been working quietly, to gage political support for the idea. I have been told that even Ariel Sharon's `ranch forum' is following its development, and approves."

When the Knesset's fall session opens in October, Vilan intends to propose a bill that will allow the beginnings of an orderly withdrawal and proper compensation that will allow people to buy a house within the Green Line.

Attorney Shai Granot, who also helped formulate the Evacuation Compensation Law, which made disengagement possible, is helping Vilan word the bill. However as opposed to the Evacuation Compensation Law, Vilan envisages compensation for the house only, regardless of the number of people in the family or their years of residence in the territories.

The cost of the houses has been estimated at between $120,000 to $200,000, bringing the total cost at this point to about $3 billion dollars.

"If we spread the move out over six years, it would be about half a billion dollars a year from the Housing Ministry's budget. That is certainly an expense that can be met, although it's clear that to get the law passed we would need government support," Vilan said.

One Home, established about six months ago by Vilan and Alon Pinkas, Israel's consul general in New York, has attracted some well-known names as the building of the separation fence picks up pace. Among them are Dalia Rabin, MK Colette Avital (Labor), Major General (res.) Gideon Sheffer and Israel Prize laureate Prof. Avi Ravitzky and Dr. Yehuda Lankri, a former ambassador to the UN and a MK from the Likud-Gesher faction.

"I see the border terminal built near my settlement," Benny Raz, a resident of Karnei Shomron in the northern West Bank who has been ostracized socially for his declared desire to leave the settlement. The fence is in fact a political boundary. Sixty-four settlements remain outside. Why are we being held hostage?

"I don't want soldiers to come knocking on my door in three or four years to evacuate me. Th/e house I bought for $120,000 is now already only worth $400,000." Raz said. "We feel the state has abandoned us," he added.

"No one is speaking to us," said Malin Noah, a member of One Home who lives in Teneh-Ofarim, a settlement outside the fence in southern Mount Hebron.

"Not the government, not the Mount Hebron Council, because we are secular. I never had a weapon and I don't want to start now. But our whole lives are changing."