Report: Barak Ready to Evacuate Jewish Settlements in Gaza
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is ready to evacuate all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip if Israel reaches a peace deal with the Palestinians at Camp David, Israeli army radio reported Tuesday.
Barak considers it "inconceivable" to keep the settlements in Gaza, one of the most densely populated regions in the world, the radio said, quoting members of the Israeli delegation at Camp David.
However the prime minister wants to keep the settlements in the occupied West Bank, even if some of them come under the sovereignty of a future Palestinian state, the radio added.
Barak advisor Eldad Yaniv declined to confirm or deny the report.
"While the Palestinians fail to present clear responses on the most painful topics under discussion and make courageous decisions, the prime minister will not discuss any new idea," Yaniv said from Camp David. "There is no peace without a price."
"Ehud Barak will not agree to sign an accord which does not declare an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to the other side's demands so we can enjoy a new era in our relations," he added.
The fate of the settlements in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is one of the issues being tackled by at Camp David, where negotiators were reported to be broaching the possibility of an agreement.
The Council of Settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip immediately denounced the Gaza proposals.
"If the prime minister thinks that Gaza settlers alone will oppose their uprooting, he is mistaken: all 200,000 settlers will mobilize against the plan," the council said in a statement.
Some 6,100 Jews live in 18 settlements in the Gaza Strip, which is home to 1.2 million Palestinians. Two of the settlements are located in the center of the strip, effectively cutting it in two.
The anti-settler movement Peace Now said however that some 40 percent of the homes built in the Gaza Strip, which lies on the Mediterranean coast abutting Egypt, were empty.
"The only solution is to evacuate the Gaza settlements, which have no reason to be there," Peace Now spokesman Didi Remez told AFP - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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