Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Sunday that the step of dismantling illegal outposts in the West Bank should not be taken unilaterally, but should be included as part of a comprehensive peace plan which would involve the equivalent action from the Palestinians.
"The evacuation of outposts needs to be part of a sensitive, comprehensive program and not piecemeal," Lieberman, chairman of the ring-wing party Yisrael Beiteinu, was quoted by the website of Ha'aretz daily as saying before Sunday's cabinet meeting.
The foreign minister announced that a return to the 1967 borders with today's circumstances won't end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and won't bring security and peace, "but rather will transfer the conflict to within the 1967 borders."
Lieberman also reiterated his position that the "road map" peace plan, a 2003 United States-backed initiative, was the only valid peace process for Israel.
The "road map" for peace is a plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict proposed by the international "quartet" -- the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.
In exchange for statehood, the "road map" requires the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to make democratic reforms and abandon the use of terrorism. Israel, for its part, must support and accept the emergence of a reformed Palestinian government and end settlement activity in the Gaza Strip and West Bank as the Palestinian terrorist threat is removed.
During the Sunday Cabinet meeting, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai addressed the issue of illegal outposts, saying that "we should not dismantle outpost right now. There is wild illegal construction on the part of the Palestinians and Israel's Arabs as well. If we are about to enforce this, we need a unified, justified and equal enforcement."
As the chairman of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, Yishai added that there was no need to clash with the United States over the outposts, suggesting that "if we explain the real problems we have here, I hope they will eventually understand. We cannot not build in the settlement blocs. There are young couples in Kiryat Sefer, in Beitar and in other settlements who need a roof over their head and a home. Not building a home for them means expelling them."
Israeli Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, currently serves as a member of the Knesset (parliament) for the hardline party of Likud, also spoke against possible evacuations, telling ministers during the cabinet meeting that Israel "cannot let the agenda be seen as a hunting expedition against settlements in the West Bank."
However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised Defense Minister Ehud Barak his full support on any decision made to evacuate illegal outposts in the West Bank, Israel Radio reported earlier Sunday.
According to the report, Netanyahu made the comments while briefing Barak and President Shimon Peres last Thursday on his visit to Washington and his meeting with President Barack Obama and other senior U.S. officials.
Israel evacuated the small outpost of Maoz Esther on Thursday morning. Local analysts believed that it was carried out due to the U.S. pressure. However, Barak denied any connection between the Netanyahu-Obama meeting on Monday and the evacuation.
The United States and other western countries have been calling on Israel to stop its settlement and outpost expansions. Obama has said several times that Israel should stop all settlement activity, in line with the obligations that it undertook as part of the "road map" peace plan.
During the meeting with Netanyahu in the White House earlier this week, Obama stressed that "under the road map, under Annapolis, there's a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements, that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward."
Netanyahu did not respond publicly to this comment, while refused again to say he was ready to negotiate the two-state solution, which was endorsed by the United States and other parties pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
There are more than 280,000 Israeli settlers currently living in the occupied West Bank and some 200,000 living in settlements in annexed east Jerusalem, according to the statistics from local organization of Peace Now.
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Saturday that the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank will not be halted "within the framework of natural growth."