Gush Effort to Set Up West Bank Settlement Thwarted by Troops
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Gush Effort to Set Up West Bank Settlement Thwarted by Troops

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A group of 42 Gush Emunim followers attempted to establish a new settlement on the West Bank today but withdrew on the arrival of airborne troops with orders to evacuate them by whatever means necessary. The group claiming to be the advance party for a major settlement project, arrived at noon at the Messcha police post, about seven kilometers east of the “green line” in the Petach Tikva area.

They brought ions of equipment an electric generator and began pouring concrete for prefab houses. The group’s leader, Nissim Simyansky, claimed that the Messcha site had been approved by the Cabinet for settlement. But Gen. David Hagoel, Governor of the West Bank who arrived on the scene with four helicopter loads of soldiers, ordered them to leave and closed off the area. Simyansky said his people had no desire to clash with the army. But he said they hoped to return to the area “very soon.”

At today’s Cabinet meeting, Defense Minister Shimon Peres and Israel Galili, Ministerial Settlement Committee chairmen, condemned the latest Gush move and said it was a serious breach because the site had been approved in principle for settlement but the Gush had chosen to act without authorization. They said that technical, not political circumstances were delaying settlement there, implying that the Gush Emunim had attempted a political provocation.


The latest attempt by the Gush Emunim to extend their presence on the West Bank came little more than a day after the Labor Party convention narrowly adopted a platform plank stating Israel’s readiness for territorial concessions in “all sectors” in exchange for peace. Many observers believe that the Gush move was a deliberate test of the government’s will and an attempt to sabotage the platform plank over which the Labor Party delegates split almost in half.

The plank was adopted Friday afternoon by a vote of 659-606, a bare 53-vote majority, after a prolonged and often bitter debate. The opposition was led by former Defense Minister Moshe Dayan who demanded elimination of the clause on territorial concessions in all sectors including the West Bank. He said that while he was not opposed to territorial concessions in principle, the plank implied that the West Bank had been part of Jordan before 1967 whereas it never belonged to that country but was occupied by Jordanian forces in 1948.

Dayan also demanded that the entire area be open to Jewish settlement and that the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem region be exempted from any restrictions on settlement. Dayan maintained that the Arab states were not ready to make peace as long as Israel holds the Golan Heights, the Sharm el-Sheikh region and the Jordan Valley. “Therefore, we must not, at this stage, give up hopes for returning to Samaria and Judaea,” he said.


The controversial plank, though unpalatable to many Laborites, was a political concession to Mapam which had demanded its inclusion in the platform as the price for remaining within the Labor Alignment. Foreign Minister Yigal Allon argued for it on other grounds. He said Israel Wednesday for territorial concessions in all sec{SPAN}##{/SPAN} exchange for a genuine peace settlement.

Israel would not oppose a Jordanian federation on both sides of the Jordan River. Allon said, on condition that it rules out a third state. He stressed that Israel wants permanent borders based on its security needs, not on mystic, theological or nationalist motives. He said the two conditions essential for any peace moves were that no third party should try to impose a plan of its own and that negotiations be conducted directly between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Peres warned against giving the same concessions for an end to belligerency as Israel might give for an overall peace agreement. He also stressed the importance of the Judaea-Samaria regions to Israel’s security. “I know of no man who thinks it is possible to protect the eastern border of Israel at a point where it is only 14 kilometers wide,” Peres said. He added that with today’s advanced weaponry, even irregulars could launch a serious attack on Israel in such a vulnerable area.

Meanwhile, having ironed out its differences with Mapam, the Labor Party moved over the weekend to heal the rift in its own ranks. At the suggestion of party Secretary General Meir Zarmi, Premier Yitzhak Rabin held a private meeting with Peres, the man who had challenged him for the Premiership and was defeated by a paper-thin margin of 41 votes at the convention last Wednesday night. Peres supporters have already organized themselves into a faction within Labor and their demand for 50 percent representation on all party bodies was promptly met.

Rabin said after his victory that he would include Peres in the next Cabinet. But he still has refused to say whether his rival would retain the Defense post or be offered a less important portfolio. Some party leaders urged Rabin to announce at the convention closing that Peres would remain Defense Minister in the new government, assuming a Labor victory May 17. But Rabin kept mum.

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