Peretz to Yesha Residents: Leave Outposts Peacefully ? or Else

Defense Minister Amir Peretz announced Monday afternoon that residents of unauthorized outposts in Judea and Samaria would be forced out of their homes, one way or the other.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 21:30

Peretz told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that he has given the Yesha Council leadership two weeks to convince outpost residents to leave their homes voluntarily. After two weeks, he said, the IDF would forcibly expel Jewish residents from their homes in unauthorized communities.

During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, the Defense Minister told the ministers he hoped meeting with Yesha leaders would bring an understanding in which they would agree to voluntary evacuation of the outposts.

Peretz noted that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had raised the issue with him during her most recent visit to Jerusalem. “The matter of evacuating illegal outposts has not lost importance on the public’s agenda,” Peretz assured the committee members, “but was given a long rest during the war in Lebanon.

In response to Peretz' remarks, Yesha officials state, "It takes two to tango. We were not invited to any meetings. Does the minister wish to attempt a dialogue? If so, with whom? Himself?"

During the committee meeting, the Defense Minister was accused by Meretz party Knesset Member Ran Cohen of dragging his feet on the issue. “Each year an evacuation plan is made and not implemented. Don’t tell us that you are planning to evacuate,” he said. “Just start evacuating.”

The order to complete plans for the expulsions was issued last week during a meeting with Defense Ministry, IDF and other officials, during which Peretz asked the IDF for immediate operational plans. Some accused Peretz of acting to cause a "civil war" to further his political goal of keeping the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party out of the government.

Yesha officials told reporters they are working responsibly to avoid a split in the nation such as the one that occurred following the Amona events in January 2006. Hundreds were injured during the incident when police tried to forcibly evacuate them.

Uniformed security personnel in riot gear on horses galloped through the crowd that had gathered to protest the destruction of the new neighborhood in Amona, trampling several. The bloody scene was caught on video tape and broadcast throughout the world as an example of Israeli police brutality toward Jewish residents of communities in Judea and Samaria (Yesha). The incident was followed by an investigation and court action against the officer in question.