Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party and still hoping to be Israel's next Prime Minister, has once again surprised observers with a sharp swing to one side of the political spectrum. After hinting several times that the time is nearing for a sharp military strike against Gaza, he now says he plans to promote a bill enticing Jews of Judea and Samaria to leave their homes, in exchange for financial compensation.
"The Labor Party plans to raise this topic in future Cabinet meetings," Barak said, "in order to enable the settlers not to wait until the last moment" to leave their homes. A bill of this nature has already been proposed by Meretz MK Avshalom Vilan and Labor MK Collette Avital, and has been promoted by the far-left Peace Now organization.
Nationalist Camp Responds
Barak's attempt to begin emptying Judea and Samaria (Yesha) of its Jews had the nationalist camp up in arms. The expelled residents of Gush Katif, the vast majority of whom have still not recovered from their expulsion well over two years ago, say, "Instead of trying to solve the problems of those who were already expelled under a law of this type, and who still live in temporary quarters and suffer from other problems, Barak is trying to create more problems like this. He is simply running away from dealing with the problems." So announced the Gush Katif Residents Committee.
MK Elon: Transfer of Jews = Danger to Security
MK Benny Elon (National Union) said that Barak and the left-wing want to erode the inner strength of the Yesha settlement enterprise and ease the way for the government to expel the Jews. "This is based on the false premise that our conflict with the Arabs is because of the settlements, and that once they disappear, peace floods in. But this has been proven wrong in Gaza, where the flowering Jewish towns have been replaced by Hamas institutions working to perpetuate the armed struggle against Israel forever."
In addition, Elon emphasizes, Barak is ignoring the fact that the army has not left northern Shomron, even though it too was included in the Disengagement - "because the presence of the IDF there, and in Ramallah, and Shechem, and Jenin, prevents those areas from falling into the hands of Hamas. All of our security experts agree that without the IDF in Ramallah, Hamas would be in charge there as well and there would have been no one to shake hands with at Annapolis... Without Jewish towns, the IDF will feel foreign and temporary, as occurred in Lebanon; whoever truly wants peace and stability in Judea and Samaria must strengthen Jewish settlement there, not weaken it."
NRP and More
The National Religious Party had a sharp reaction. "Barak wants to empty out Judea and Samaria of its Jews in order to make room for the millions of Arab 'refugees' [whom he and Olmert are] planning to bring in, thus magnifying the existential threat looming over the State of Israel," said the party's Secretary-General, Sar-Shalom Jerbi.
The Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria said, "The Defense Minister would be better advised to deal with solutions for Israel's real security problems, such as Kassams at Sderot and the Iranian threat, instead of how to throw Jews out of their homes."
MK Tzvi Hendel (National Union) said, "Why stop in Yesha? Barak's policies affect many citizens. Maybe also those of Sderot, Ashkelon, and Kiryat Shmonah should be offered money to leave."