Israel Removes Illegal Settler Outpost in West Bank
JERUSALEM — Israeli police and security forces on Thursday dismantled a small Jewish outpost in the West Bank in what many here saw as a gesture by Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to President Obama three days after their meeting in Washington.
No arrests were made at the illegal outpost, where at least four families lived in a couple of concrete structures and several temporary shacks. Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman, said the timing of the action was not significant. Another small West Bank outpost was removed about two months ago, he said.
But it was the first time Israel’s new right-leaning government had removed an outpost, and settler leaders and others saw it as a political message.
“It seems that this was done in order to throw a bone to the United States president,” Avi Roeh, the chairman of the local settler council, told Israel Radio.
Pressing for a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Obama administration has made clear that it expects Israel to carry out a total settlement freeze and remove illegal outposts in the West Bank, according to Israel’s commitments under a 2003 peace plan known as the road map.
The outpost, Maoz Esther, is in the Ramallah region. Hours after it was dismantled, a resident, Daniel Landesberg, 19, said he had already set about rebuilding his demolished home.
Speaking by telephone, Mr. Landesberg said the move was “a signal” from Mr. Netanyahu to Mr. Obama that Israel would do whatever he asked.
Israeli government officials say they want to remove the outposts by agreement with the settlers in order to avoid confrontation. Long months of talks under the previous government, however, did not yield tangible results.
Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, met with settler leaders on Wednesday and told them that the illegal outposts were damaging Israel’s international relations and their own cause. He said the outposts would be removed “if not through dialogue, then through swift and aggressive enforcement.”
On Thursday, Mr. Barak said that the evacuation of Maoz Esther was “not connected with the Americans or American pressure” and that it was carried out according to routine orders. More than a hundred outposts dot the West Bank, alongside dozens of established Jewish settlements authorized by Israel but widely considered abroad a violation of international law.
Yariv Oppenheimer of Peace Now, an Israeli advocacy group that opposes Jewish settlement in the West Bank, said that the outpost evacuated on Thursday was not a significant one, and that the action was “more about P.R.” after the Washington meeting. Mr. Oppenheimer added that the same outpost has been evacuated at least twice before.Rina Castelnuovo contributed reporting from Maoz Esther, West Bank.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Netanyahu throws Obama a bone
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