JERUSALEM – In a significant sign of Israeli intentions following last week’s U.S.-sponsored Annapolis summit, Knesset leaders today said they would introduce a bill to compensate Jewish residents of the West Bank who relocate from the territory voluntarily before any Israeli evacuation from the area.

At last Tuesday’s summit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert committed to aim for the conclusion of an agreement with the Palestinians before President Bush leaves office next year, with Israel widely expected to evacuate large swaths of the West Bank, which borders Jerusalem and is within rocket range of Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.

Leaders of the leftist Labor party, Olmert’s major coalition partner, today said they would introduce the compensation bill, which will provide Israeli West Bank residents with financial assistance if they decide to voluntarily leave the territory.

A statement by the Yesha Council of West Bank Jewish communities called the bill an attempt to “bribe” West Bank Jews.

“[Labor leader Ehud Barak] doesn’t understand that the residents of Judea and Samaria will not sell their principles and devotion to the land of Israel for bribery and lucre.”

Prior to Israel’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip in 2005, the government here offered compensation packages to Gaza Jewish residents who left the territory on their own accord before a set deadline for the withdrawal to be implemented. Eventually, Israel offered compensation to all evacuated Gaza residents and promised to find them permanent housing solutions.

WND reported more than two years after the Gaza withdrawal, most of the evacuated Jews are preparing to make small trailer communities into permanent homes. The tiny trailer communities were supposed to serve as temporary living quarters until Israel found them long-term solutions.

Shipping containers have been used to help house uprooted Gaza refugees

A report by the Gush Katif Committee, the main humanitarian organization representing the Gaza Jewish refugees, also cited a near double increase in heart disease, high blood pressure and other major health problems among evacuated Gaza Jews the past two years and found the uprooted youth are suffering from a wealth of emotional problems, with many scoring poorly in school and some attempting suicide.

The report stated some 37 percent of the Jewish Gaza evacuees are still unemployed and that of those who are re-employed, their overall average family income has decreased 40 percent since the Gaza evacuation.

In a speech at last week’s Annapolis summit, Olmert alluded to evacuating the West Bank, which Israel recaptured in 1967.

“The negotiations will address all of the issues which we have thus far avoided dealing with,” said Olmert last Tuesday. “I am convinced that the reality that emerged in our region in 1967 will change significantly. I know this. Many of my people know this. We are prepared for it.”

Hamas leaders in recent weeks vowed their organization would seize the West Bank if Israel hands the territory to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, just as Hamas seized the Gaza Strip last June, overtaking in less than one week all U.S.-backed security compounds associated with Abbas’ Fatah organization.

WND reported earlier this month Israeli and Palestinian security officials said they have specific information Hamas is quietly setting the stages for an imminent West Bank takeover attempt. The officials said that among other things, Hamas has been acquiring weaponry in the West Bank and has set up a sophisticated system of communication between cells for a seizure attempt.

Last week, WND reported Israel cracked down on a Hamas cell suspected of attempting to form a military wing to take over the West Bank.

Israeli security officials said they were concerned Abbas’ Fatah organization in the West Bank is “heavily infiltrated” by Hamas. The issue of Hamas infiltration of Fatah was thought to have been the Achilles heel that led to the terror group’s takeover last summer of the entire Gaza Strip.

Israeli security officials said they were also concerned Abbas is not strong enough in the West Bank to impose law and order without the help of the IDF. According to the officials, Fatah’s intelligence apparatus routinely hands the IDF lists of Hamas militants that threaten Fatah rule, requesting that Israel make arrests.

To interview Aaron Klein, contact Tim Bueler Public Relations by e-mail, or call (530) 401-3285.

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