JERUSALEM (Feb. 5)
The Gush Emunim campers at Shiloh in central Samaria were given a government permit for archaeological work there and a warning from the Cabinet today to stick to that type of activity.
Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor told reporters after the weekly session that the Gush had a license to find an ancient town “not build a new one.” The matter came before the Cabinet because the government has been clearly embarrassed by Gush announcements that they were settlers. Premier Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan had assured President Carter last week, through U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis, that the site at Shiloh was nothing more than an archaeological dig.
Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zippori put the group on notice, during a weekend television interview, that they must occupy themselves strictly with archaeology “and nothing more.” He referred to “certain individuals” who had misused the government’s decision to permit excavations at Shiloh “in a way that has caused rather a lot of damage.” He warned that “if they violate the law, we will know how to deal with the matter.”
ANGERED OVER POSSIBLE DUPLICITY
The Shiloh issue has generated extensive negative media coverage of the affair in the American and Western European press and in the Israeli press itself, including organs that usually support the government. The local media is particularly disturbed by the suggestion of duplicity on Israel’s part.
The government insists that the activity at Shiloh, where a number of Gush families have moved into makeshift homes, is nothing more than a legitimate search for antiquities. The Gush has been boasting that it is the vanguard of yet another new settlement in the region. One newspaper observed today that it was a patent absurdity to describe two-year-old children as “archaeologists.”
The Jerusalem Post took the government to task today for bowing to Gush pressure. “The zealousness of the official settlement departments in carrying it out only served to trigger an unnecessary argument with Washington and to damage Israel’s cause in U.S. public opinion,” the Post said.
Observers here fear that Dayan’s upcoming visit to the U.S., designed largely to counteract the effects of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit, will be taken up trying to explain the Shiloh affair and the bulldozers in the Rafah salient that preceded it.