TEL AVIV (May. 14)
Israeli authorities have adopted a position of no hindrance and no help toward 25 young settlers who took over the deserted Syrian town of Kuneitra on the Golan Heights yesterday with the declared intention of establishing a permanent Jewish settlement there.
“We are not here as a protest. We have come here to settle, to cultivate the Kuneitra valley,” a spokesman for the group, Assaf Kotten, told reporters today. It seemed clear, however, that the move was aimed against reported territorial concessions to the Syrians which include a partial Israeli withdrawal from Kuneitra and two adjacent villages.
The settlers come from other parts of the Golan Heights and from as far away as Kfar Etzion and Kiryat Arba near Hebron. They moved into Kuneitra secretly yesterday morning, taking possession of abandoned buildings on the outskirts of town. The five women in the group, including one recent emigre from the Soviet Union, set about cleaning house and preparing food while the men unloaded supplies from Huleh and Jordan Valley settlements. They said they planned to set up a shoe factory to earn money because the settlement authorities are providing no help.
The Jewish Agency’s settlement department said today that it would not provide funds for the Kuneitra group because it had no plans for more settlements in the northern Golan Heights. The Military Government, which has jurisdiction over the Kuneitra area, has made no moves against the squatters.
Meanwhile, Likud leader Menachem Beigin addressed a large rally in Haifa last night protesting against withdrawal from Kuneitra or any part of the Golan Heights captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Beigin called the struggle against withdrawal one of the most crucial in Israel’s history.
Likud MK Amnon Lin told the crowd that not a single Arab leader has abandoned the doctrine of annihilating Israel, despite the disengagement accord with Egypt and Israel’s offers of peace. A Druze notable, whose son was killed in action with the Israeli army, urged the government not to abandon the Golan Druze. Haifa police searched the neighborhood of the Likud rally last night for unknown persons who dumped water on Beigin while he spoke.