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PNA Accuses Sharon of ‘Deception’ over Settlements

PNA Accuses Sharon of ‘Deception’ over Settlements

Settlers Defiant, Vow to Fight, Torpedo ‘Roadmap’

PMC Feature: The Palestine National Authority (PNA) accused Israeli Prime Minister Sharon of “deception” and described the dismantling of some empty settlement outposts in the occupied Palestinian territory as a “symbolic step” and a “phony show.”

Palestinian Minister of Cabinet Affairs Yasser Abed Rabbo rejected the move as “just a symbolic step,” and accused PM Sharon of deception.

“Sharon is playing a game of deception through the evacuation of some of the empty trailers in order to give legitimacy to the tens of settlements he established during his term in office,” he said.

Similarly, President Yasser Arafat’s media adviser Nabil Abu Rudeina said “This is a theatrical and insignificant step” and described the Israeli move as a “trick.”

"We see this step by the Israeli army as a trick and nothing more than a formality," Abu Rudeina told AFP by phone. "It is false."

"We ask the Israeli government to implement the roadmap and to freeze all settlement activity," he said.

His words came as the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) began dismantling a number of what the Israeli officials describe as “illegal” West Bank settlement outposts because they were not “authorized” by the Israeli government.

Earlier Monday, Israeli “Defense” Minister Shaul Mofaz presented settler leaders with a list of 15 such illegal outposts in the West Bank, four of them inhabited, which the IOF plan to dismantle in
the near future.

Shortly after the so-called settlers’ council leader met with Mofaz in Tel Aviv on Monday, settler sources said IOF will remove five inhabited outposts, namely Shavei Shomron West, Beit El East, Mitspeh Yitzhar, Havat Gilad and Nofei Nehemiah, all of which are located in the northern West Bank.

Earlier Monday, IOF troops operating near Ramallah cleared out the uninhabited Neve Erez South outpost, and partially emptied the Amona outpost without removing the 15 families living there, they claimed.

“In line with a government decision, the Israel defense forces have started dismantling unauthorized outposts,” IOF sources said earlier, without specifying which outposts were being removed.

The decision followed a pledge to remove such settlements by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during last week’s summit with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas, and US President George W. Bush in Jordan.

There are more than 100 settlements in the West Bank, more than 60 of which have been built since Sharon came to power in 2001. Israel is required to dismantle them all under the first phase of the roadmap, to which it gave its acceptance, AFP reported.

All the Jewish settlements on the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal and illegitimate in the eyes of international law. They are home of more than 400,000 illegal settlers, of whom around 220,000 are living in over 150 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the rest are in occupied east Jerusalem. All of these settlements were “authorized” by consecutive Israeli governments. The US-sponsored and internationally-adopted “roadmap” peace plan envisages Israeli withdrawal from all settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Settlers Vow to Fight

The settlers vowed defiance and threatened to “fight” and to “do everything we can to torpedo,
obstruct, and to prolong this step.”

"The Settlers' Council announces the start of a struggle against the clearing of outposts, against the Mideast roadmap and the surrender to terror," the council said.

"We will carry on a determined, non-compromising but non-violent struggle until (PM Ariel Sharon) backs down," it added.

The so-called Settlers Council (Yesha) Council head, Adi Mintz, said the decision to remove the outposts was "part of the road map, not a one-time act. We see this as the beginning of an attempt to destroy the settlement project in Judea and Samaria."

“We have thousands, even tens of thousands, who are ready to fight,'' said Adi Mintz, adding that the struggle would be nonviolent.

The settlers are armed and protected by the IOF troops.

“If we are evacuated, we'll return the night after and establish 10 new outposts,'' said Yehoshua Mor-Yosef, a settler spokesman.

"If we are evacuated, and I assume that the army will use force to evacuate us in the end, then we will return the next day to 10 hilltops," Mor-Yosef said.

"We will do everything we can to torpedo, obstruct, and to prolong this step," he added.

“Ariel Sharon is an old man who changed his way and now he has surrendered to terror,'' said Daniel Cassette, a resident of the illegal West Bank Ofra settlement.

Poll: Rising Majority of Israelis Backs Removing Settlements

However a new opinion poll shows that a rising majority of Israelis favors removing large numbers of settlements in the context of a future peace accord with the Palestinians, and that Israelis feel more secure and open to compromise than they did in 2002, Israel Radio reported Monday.

The poll, conducted by Tel Aviv University's Jaffee Institute for Strategic Studies, showed that 59 percent of the Israeli public is willing to remove all settlements located outside major settlement blocs, the radio said. The figure represents a rise from 50 percent who expressed such willingness in a parallel survey taken last year.

Asked if they would support a unilateral withdrawal from the territories in the context of a peace accord, even if that meant ceding all settlements, 56 percent said that they would, versus 48 percent last year.

A full 75 percent of respondents said they believed that soldiers should not have the right to refuse evicting settlers from unauthorized outposts. The same percentage said soldiers should not have the right to refuse service in the territories.

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