Gili Cohen
March 11, 2011 - 1:00am

The left-leaning Bnei Hamoshavim youth movement is planning to build a new settlement for its graduates in the Jordan Valley, Army Radio reported on Thursday.

At a meeting between the movement's secretary general, Eyal Uzon, and the head of the Jordan Valley regional council, David Alhiani, himself a Bnei Hamoshavim graduate, the movement was offered the abandoned Gadi military base, near Moshav Mesua, which is beyond the Green Line.

Sources within both the movement and the regional council said neither had any intention of breaking the law, but to rigorously follow all relevant regulations. Nevertheless, Uzon acknowledged to Army Radio Thursday that the move may draw some criticism.

When asked whether this was a "trick" aimed at expanding the settlement enterprise in the valley, he said, "No doubt, certainly. We need to find the path between the law and the benefit of the area in an intelligent way."

Graduates of the movement will choose in the coming week whether to accept the offer of the Gadi base or to join Moshav Yafit, also in the valley.

"It may well be that the young people will vote with their feet and say, we don't want to settle the Jordan Valley," Uzon told Haaretz Thursday. "I'll regret that, because I think it's an important area. All this is done without any intention of harming the peace process."

Uzon noted that other, existing settlements in the valley have been set up by the movement, and said he "does not consider them to be beyond the Green Line."

"This isn't a provocation, it's meant to ensure our graduates have a place to settle, and the Jordan Valley is a valid option," he said. "I wouldn't go and live in Judea and Samaria, it seems a little ... but to say that the Jordan Valley is like Judea and Samaria seems to me to be a bit inaccurate."

While the movement said Thursday that one of the prior demands for a settling initiative is the possibility to become an officially recognized community in the future, the local council was more hesitant.

"We're being very rational: Neither the defense minister nor the prime minister will build a new settlement in the Jordan Valley, not now. Maybe later, when there's sovereignty in the valley," said Alhiani.

One of the officials reportedly coordinating the move is Yoel Marshak, task force chief for the Kibbutz Movement, though Marshak denied involvement, telling Haaretz that the project was solely between Bnei Hamoshavim and the regional council.

In May, Haaretz reported a document released by the task force, titled "settling in state-owned land in the Jordan Valley." Marshak said at the time he reconsidered starting a new settlement at Gadi following the renewal of the peace talks with the Palestinians.

The Kibbutz Movement reiterated it had no involvement in the proposed settlement of Bnei Hamoshavim graduates at Gadi.


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