Is Israel serious about closing 23 fringe settlements?
It is reportedly planning to dismantle the outposts in a single day to minimize the violence and bad PR that marred the last major evacuation, in 2006.
A reported Israeli plan to forcibly evacuate 23 unauthorized settler outposts in a single day could finally fulfill a promise that successive Israeli governments have made to Washington, while minimizing the violence and bad public relations that have marred previous evacuations.Skip to next paragraph
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Israel's efforts to rein in these mushrooming do-it-yourself settlements, established without government approval, hit a roadblock in 2006 with the evacuation of an outpost known as Amona. Days ahead of time, ultranationalist protesters streamed in from all over the country. More than 300 were injured, including two members of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. The Knesset concluded later that the police had used excessive brutality. No major dismantling has been attempted since.
This time around, it seems, the government is trying to prevent a repeat of Amona by simultaneously dismantling the outposts and thus minimizing resistance from protesters.
"They want to avoid that kind of evacuation now, and the logistics of it are not easy," says Peter Medding, a politics professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "And if you're going to do 23 places, you don't want to do it one by one, and repeat the risk of failure."
On Tuesday, Russia and France echoed US pressure on Israel to honor its obligations vis-à-vis settlements as outlined in the 2003 road map, targeting a planned development in East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been reluctant to curtail Israeli expansion there, which the Jewish state views as its eternal capital, but illegal outposts look like another matter.
Reports: Drill for large-scale evacuation
"The IDF is subordinate to the political echelon and implements its instructions, but such an order was never received," the IDF said in a statement.
The defense ministry, which ultimately calls the shots, has refused to provide a list of outposts to be evacuated in an apparent effort to avoid giving pro-settler activists information with which to organize themselves. But it's clear that Israeli security forces have been preparing for some kind of an evacuation. Last week, there were joint exercises to prepare for some kind of large-scale evacuation, involving the border police, the regular police, and the IDF. The drill, led by the border police, was held at a military base more than a week ago, several Israeli newspapers reported.