Knesset Backs Rabin on Government Action in Ousting Sebastia Settlers

The Knesset, by a 55-46 vote today, supported the government’s policy in removing the 150 persons who attempted to establish a settlement in Sebastia near Nablus. During a long, heated debate Premier Yitzhak Rabin stressed that the Sebastia incident was not an argument over the Jewish right to the Land of Israel, but rather over the foundations of the democratic system.

“Our right to this land is indisputable,” Rabin said in an opening speech to a Knesset session devoted to the affair, but “in the State of Israel the procedures of the rule of law shall be maintained and no one shall be permitted to violate them. I regard this event as a test of the inner strength of Israeli society, and not as a test of strength for the Israel Defense Force. I am glad that we have saved ourselves pain and shame–and perhaps even more.”

Rabin added that the government would work for the continuation of settlements, but “in accordance with the decision that the government of Israel will adopt.”

A group of 35 families evaded an army cordon last Friday in an attempt to establish a settlement at Sebastia. The government ordered them out but did not act, first because of the Sabbath and then Tisha B’Av. The settlers, who were supported by members of Likud, the National Religious Party and the Aguda faction, agreed to leave Sunday night to avoid a clash with the army, but stressed they were going against their will.

Rabin disclosed that in the meetings he had with the settlers prior to their act, practical proposals were made for other locations where there was sparse population and needed reinforcement. They were promised consideration of specific proposals.

ACCOMPLISHED FACTS INTOLERABLE

Rabin accused the settlers of being determined to impose their plan on the government. “The people knew that the government would use its authority, and nevertheless they believed that they would create an accomplished fact and the government of Israel would say amen.”

He challenged the settlers and their supporters to influence the government by the ballot box, by Knesset decisions, and by public opinion, but “not by deeds which undermine the foundations of our regime.” Rabin called on the Knesset to support the policy “which provides a guarantee for the maintenance of the rule of law and the authority of the administration and the Knesset.”

Rabin’s position received support from former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who told the Knesset that while he favors Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the place to challenge the government’s policy is in the Knesset and not in the administered territories.

Likud leader Menachem Beigin praised the Samaria settlement in comparison with the “incitement” against it. Somebody is trying to turn things upside down, he said. Settlements in Samaria and Judea are described as irresponsible, whereas Judea and Samaria without Jews is described as responsible, he declared. “I believe the majority of the people of Israel are convinced that keeping Judea and Samaria without Jews is the record of national irresponsibility.”

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