JERUSALEM (Oct. 10)
The round-up and forcible removal of would-be settlers from sites on the West Bank continued into its second day today. Several hundred squatters were still at large east of the “Green Line” and new settlement attempts were being made by others in defiance of the government.
The army frustrated an attempt by 42 militants to establish themselves at Maale Adomin east of Jerusalem this morning. Another 100 were forced by army patrols to abandon their camp site near an ancient monastery at Wadi Kelt. A group of youngsters left their bus on Mt. Scopus and scrambled down toward the Judaean desert with soldiers in hot pursuit.
The events of the past two days have had both bizarre and tragic overtones and were deeply frustrating for all concerned. What began at the close of the Succoth holiday Wednesday night as the largest and best organized attempt yet to establish a “Jewish presence” in the administered Arab territories of the West Bank has become, in effect, a “game” of hide-and-seek occupying large numbers of Israeli soldiers who, as Defense Minister Shimon Peres put it grimly yesterday, would be far better occupied with regular defense and training duties.
TRAGIC AND BIZARRE OVERTONES
As the “game” continued today, soldiers would come upon a group of squatters who would immediately disperse into the woods or rocky hillsides, wherever cover was available. They clung to trees and rocks as soldiers, many of them 18-year-old recruits, went after them, determined to be firm but gentle.
In one instance, a young soldier confronted his sister among the squatters and they embraced. In another case, soldiers came upon neighbors with whom they regularly attended synagogue at Ramat Gan. It was time for prayer and they all stopped to pray and then resumed the “game.” A Lt. Col., attempting to reach a bearded old man holding a Torah scroll with one hand and clinging to a tree with another, had the epithet “Nazi” hurled at him. The officer turned and wept. He himself was a survivor of the holocaust.
ARABS EXPRESS GLEE
Generally, the squatters offered only passive resistance. But in many areas they scuffled with the troops. Near the West Bank town of Ramallah crowds of Arab sidewalk idlers watched with obvious glee as Jews struggled with Jews, The squatters refused to yield even though the soldiers reminded them that the spectacle was “making the enemy happy.” They were dragged off forcibly as the Arabs cheered.
The settlement movement, sponsored by the so-called “Gush Emonim” (Bloc of the Faithful) are chiefly Orthodox religious zealots who claim that all of the Holy Land west of the Jordan belongs to Israel by Divine right But religion and politics are strongly intermingled in the movement. The settlement movement is’ supported by the Likud, the National Religious Party and by the Greater Israel Movement.
The concerted effort to establish Jewish settlements on the West Bank in defiance of the government’s ban on unauthorized settlement, was organized along para-military lines. The organizers freely admitted that it was timed to coincide with the visit of Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger who is due in Jerusalem Saturday night. They noted, that the disengagement lines drawn so far under Kissinger’s aegis have coincided with the easternmost Jewish settlements. They believe Kissinger will attempt next to effect a disengagement between Israel and Jordan and want the line as close to the Jordan River as possible. if not on the river itself.
TRYING TO TEST GOVERNMENT’S METTLE
Another apparent motivation is to test the mettle of the Rabin government and. according to some observers, to bring it down if possible. Premier Yitzhak Rabin has stood firmly by his and the preceding government’s policy of permitting only limited settlement in the administered territories pending a final peace accord. The Premier reiterated yesterday that unauthorized settlement would not be tolerated. But he repeated his pledge, made when he took office, that he would call new elections before signing any agreement with Jordan that involved Israeli territorial withdrawals.