Golan Heights Settlers Confused, Uncertain About Area’s Future

Uncertainty prevails among settlers on the Golan Heights and their supporters over the future of Israeli settlements there should the government be pressed into negotiating a new interim pact with Syria in the wake of the one just concluded with Egypt in Sinai. The confusion is compounded by seemingly contradictory statements emanating from official quarters in recent days and the absence of any authoritative final statement of policy by the government.

Premier Yitzhak Rabin was quoted in his various New Year interviews as saying that an agreement with Syria would not be allowed to jeopardize a single settlement on the Golan. Reports from various foreign sources say an understanding was reached between Israel and the U.S. in the course of the recent Israeli-Egyptian negotiations that there will be negotiations with Syria.

Yediot Achronot quoted Foreign Minister Yigal Allon yesterday as saying that “We did not conquer the Golan to settle there. The settlements there helped the Israeli army in the security effort and they are there to help in the political struggle that will decide the final borders.”

Those remarks attributed to Allon seemed to raise a question over the future of the existing settlements on the Heights and the establishment of additional ones there. Golan settlers have called for four more settlements on the Heights but the ministerial settlement committee to which they addressed their proposal has not taken up the problem.

DEBATE ON ISSUE DUE NEXT WEEK

The settlers were disturbed Tuesday when the committee decided to refer the matter of new settlements to the full Cabinet. It acted on the demand of Housing Minister Avraham Ofer, a Labor Party “dove.” that the issue be sent to the Cabinet plenary for reconsideration in the light of recent political developments.

It is now likely to come up on the national agenda earlier than expected and the outcome of the debate is uncertain. Up to now, the government has insisted that no Israeli settlement would be removed from the Golan in the event of an interim agreement with Syria. The problem now, however, concerns settlements that are still in the planning stages.

Meanwhile, a quarrel has developed between the opposition Likud which has demanded an extraordinary session of the Knesset this week to debate the Golan problem and Knesset Speaker Yisrael Yeshayahu who rejected the demand on grounds that the Knesset chamber is now undergoing renovation. Likud, which got the required number of signatures for a special session, accused Yeshayahu of arbitrary use of his authority to postpone a debate on issues raised by the opposition. The debate is expected to be held next week.

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