ariel-sharonReports that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon proposed the sale of structures and equipment in northern Sinai to Egypt when he visited Cairo last week has drawn strong protests from two Jewish Agency officials. Dismantling of the equipment has been suspended because of resistance by militant settlers and squatters in the Yamit region.

Sharon is believed to have asked the Egyptians to allow Israel to complete the job after the April 26 deadline for withdrawal from Sinai when all of the settlers will have been evacuated from the region. But Raanan Weitz and Mattityahu Drobless, co-chairmen of the Agency settlement department believe Sharon’s aim is not to remove the structures but to sell them to the Egyptians.

They contended today that this would be a waste of money because the replacement costs would greatly exceed the purchase price. The items involved include hothouses and other agricultural installations, various buildings and irrigation systems. These were slated to be taken down and transported to relocation sites but Jewish Agency workers were called off the job last month to avoid a confrontation with the settlers.

The Knesset’s Finance Committee continued today to search for a formula to compensate settlers for abandoning homes, farms and businesses when they leave Sinai. Sharp exchanges were reported between committee members and settlers’ representatives who claimed they had been misled by the government. A majority of the committee reportedly favors the payment of compensation partially in long term government bonds while the balance, paid in cash, would be subject to income tax.