Israel government, settlers cooperate in West Bank move
By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A cluster of Jewish settlers ordered to be evicted by an Israeli court said on Wednesday they would go quietly, sparing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a showdown with a core constituency.
The 30 families living in five unauthorized apartment blocks in Beit El accepted a government proposal to move them and physically relocate the buildings. The state will also erect 300 new homes elsewhere in their settlement in the occupied West Bank.
"We are peaceful people," the settlers said in a statement after overnight negotiations between a Beit El rabbi and Netanyahu aides. "Fraternal struggles rupture all of society ... and consume our creative energies, which are meant to be building up the nation."
Israel's Supreme Court had ruled that the apartment blocks, on Beit El's Ulpana hill, should be torn down by July 1 as they sit on privately owned Palestinian land.
Such distinctions are largely irrelevant abroad, where all the settlements are viewed as illegal for taking in territory occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and where Palestinians seek statehood.
The issue is a main obstacle to a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Netanyahu government, which has said it keep swathes of settlements under any future peace accord, wants to be seen as respecting Israel's judiciary. But it is also loath to upset the conservative prime minister's ultranationalist political base.
"From the beginning, we set out two goals: to uphold the law and strengthen the settlements. This deal meets both," Netanyahu said in a statement. Continued...