Cash carrot may be waved at settlers: Peace deal could hang on evacuation of Jewish areas, Sarah Helm writes from Jerusalem

PLANS to pay settlers to leave their homes in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank are being seriously debated in Israel for the first time, amid growing awareness that the entire peace deal could break down unless many settlements are evacuated. Opinion polls suggest that a third of the estimated 130,000 settlers would leave if offered compensation. However, according to Ehud Spinzak, an expert on the Israeli right, as many as 70 per cent of Israeli settlers would take up such an offer.

Although compensation remains off the agenda for the government, the debate has been spurred by a compensation bill to be presented to the Knesset by Yossi Katz, a Labour MP who believes the settlers should be given money to leave the West Bank and Gaza now, and encouraged to live instead in Galilee, northern Israel, and in the Negev, in the south. Mr Katz says he believes at least half the settlers would accept the money.

Discussion of paying off the settlers has been fuelled by the delay in implementing the first stage of withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho. This delay has been caused, in part, by problems over settlements. It has proved impossible to agree on security arrangements for the communities, which are a focus of violence.

Netzarim, one very isolated settlement in Gaza, has caused particular problems in the talks. The Gaza-Jericho experience has focused minds on the much bigger problem presented by settlements in the West Bank. 'There are one hundred Netzarims in the West Bank,' says Yossi Alpher, director of the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv. 'It seems clear now that even if agreement is reached for withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho it will be impossible to apply it to the West Bank.

'The number of settlements there will allow only very flimsy cosmetic redeployment. The presence of settlers will continue to be a focus of friction and violence, presenting a huge obstacle. The debate about evacuation is only just beginning but is building up and will continue to do so.' The compensation bill could be as high as dollars 10bn (pounds 6.7bn), according to some estimates, and Israel would be certain to request international help to pay it.

However, the coalition government refuses to discuss compensation publicly for fear of enraging the right, which recalls memories of Yamit, the settlement in the Sinai evacuated after the Israel-Egypt peace accord of 1979. For now, the terms of the peace agreement do not demand that the issue be raised. These terms say that settlements will remain in place for five years of Palestinian self-rule.

Only then, when the final status of the lands is decided, does evacuation become an option. To talk about compensating some settlements now would be to disclose a readiness to hand over some or all of the land in the final-status talks, which would be to declare a bargaining position.

However, some liberal commentators in Israel believe that the government may be obliged to shorten the interim phase of the handover, to allow discussion of settlements to start earlier than planned.

The government appears content for discussion about compensation to begin in the media, in the Knesset, and in academic circles, suggesting that efforts are under way to prepare public opinion for another taboo to be broken. 'It is true the debate is beginning. It is in the air. That shows it is on the public agenda,' said a senior government source.

As settler anxiety shows itself, Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister, is attempting to present settlers to the Israeli public in a different light. He announced last week that four times as many troops were necessary to ensure security in the occupied territories as were needed on the northern border.

This disclosure was partly designed to show the public the cost of protecting 3 per cent of the Israeli population, living on land that may one day have to be handed back. Mr Rabin said on Monday: 'Twice each day in Judea and Samaria alone there are more than 500 military escorts for schoolchildren. If only some of this force could be used to initiate operations against the terrorists.'

This week the Jewish National Fund, a quasi-government agency, announced plans to build 26 new communities in Israel proper near the Green Line. This was interpreted as an effort to lure settlers to move.

(Map omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices