Barak to Open Dialogue with Settlers on Palestinian Negotiations
Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, has decided to hold an ongoing dialogue with Israeli settlers on the talks with the Palestinians which will decide the settlements' fate, his office said Wednesday in a statement.
But the plan received a dusty answer from the main settlers' group.
Barak, who earlier chaired a meeting of his "security cabinet" on the negotiations with the Palestinians, has instructed his ministers to go to the West Bank and Gaza Strip settlements to meet their residents in a few days, the statement said.
Barak said the ministers should be accompanied by officials involved in the negotiations with the Palestinians, the statement added.
This dialogue "will follow a number of meetings the prime minister has had in recent months with the settlers," it said.
"The prime minister considers settlements to be very important, and the decisive moment in the political process is drawing near."
The Settlers Council, the main settlers' organization, reacted negatively to the news.
The prime minister "is pretending to engage in a dialogue after realizing that the settlers and half of Israelis oppose the dismantling of settlements," it charged.
"We will continue our protests in front of all the ministers' homes," the council said in a statement.
The settlers have been upset since the Israeli press published a final peace plan attributed to Barak. The plan would give the Palestinians control over more than 90 percent of the West Bank.
Settlers moved into the West Bank and Gaza after Israel captured the territories from Jordan and Egypt during the June 1967 war. The settlers fear that Barak will demolish some settlements as part of a Palestinian peace deal that is scheduled to be wrapped up by September 13th.
More than 200,000 settlers live in about 150 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
In addition, more than 180,000 Israelis live in a dozen Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied from Jordan in 1967.
Tens of thousands of settlers rallied in Jerusalem Monday to call for Barak not to give the Palestinians the land on which their settlements were built.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are negotiating a final peace plan that is to resolve issues such as the fate of the settlements, east Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees and the final borders and legal status of the Palestinian areas - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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