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Eshkol Defends West Bank Military Governor’s Order Expelling Three Jews from Hebron

Prime Minister Eshkol today defended the West Bank military governor’s expulsion order against three Orthodox Jews who refused to tear down a kosher food stand they had built in the West Bank town of Hebron in violation of local ordinances. Mr. Eshkol told the Knesset (Parliament) that the order had been issued by the military governor after it was approved by him and by Defense Minister Gen. Moshe Dayan. Execution of the order was deferred by the Cabinet last week until the return of Gen. Dayan who was absent from the regular Cabinet meeting owing to the death of his father. The Knesset adjourned today for summer recess which will end on Oct. 21.

Mr. Eshkol’s reference to the Hebron matter was made in reply to agenda motions presented by the Gahal (Herut-Liberal alignment), National Religious Party, Free Center and the Haolam Hazeh factions whose members claimed that the punishment was too harsh. The Prime Minister said that the order was motivated not only by the violation but because the three accused had flouted the military governor’s authority. He said that the Hebron settlers, numbering about 80, had entered the town by “trickery” after promising that they only wanted to visit there over the last Passover holiday. Afterwards they refused to leave and were permitted to remain on condition that they obeyed the military governor’s orders, Mr. Eshkol said. Those orders stipulated that they remain within the military government compound. But the kiosk was built in an area restricted to them. They also failed to secure the required permit. Under a Cabinet ruling, the establishment of any trade or business in Hebron is considered a political act and requires official permission. The kiosk was demolished by Israeli soldiers. The Knesset referred the matter to its foreign affairs and security committee at Mr. Eshkol’s request.

In other action, the Knesset yesterday gave its final reading to the Cabinet Law which, among other things, imposes strict censorship on deliberations of the Cabinet on matters concerning defense, security or anything else the Cabinet may define as secret. Under the law, journalists and publishers may be prosecuted if they print news in violation of the decree. The formula finally incorporated into the law represented a compromise between the Cabinet’s first draft which would have made all Cabinet deliberations secret unless publication was specifically authorized and a demand by the journalists and publishers associations that the law cover only military subjects.

The Cabinet Law will become part of what is known as Israel’s “little constitution.” Israel has no written constitution. The country is governed under a series of basic laws passed one-by-one over the years. These laws govern the election of the Knesset, the President and other legislative and executive bodies. The new Cabinet Law will not change the basic formula under which the Prime Minister is chosen by the President after consultation with the various parties. The Cabinet assumes office after receiving a vote of confidence by the Knesset.

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