JERUSALEM (Sep. 24)
Premier Menachem Begin met with Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, and Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon at his residence last night to discuss the Gush Emunim illegal settlement activities, the freezing of settlements on the West Bank, and the removal of settlements on the Rafah salient of the Sinai.
The meeting was port of Begin’s attempt to explain to various Cabinet ministers that the decision at Camp David to remove the settlements in Rafah was necessary to obtain full peace with Egypt.
While Begin is fairly assured of receiving a majority on the issue in the Knesset, the public outcry by those to be affected by the pullback has intensified. A group of about 100 residents of Kiryat Arba at Hebron put up a “settlement” on a hill adjacent to the industrial area last night. The settlers, including several women, reached the hill and began erecting tents despite army roadblocks in the area. They subsequently blocked access to the hill with heavy vehicles to hamper army eviction.
Another attempt by the Gush to resettle south of Nablus on Friday was prevented by the army. The Gush subsequently cabled messages to Ministers Haim London, Yigal Hurvitz, Moshe Nissim and Sharon calling on them to resign from the government “because they did not swear allegiance to a government that removes Jewish settlers.”
GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF SELL-OUT
Late last night, hundreds of persons from Gush Emunim and the Sinai settlements gathered together outside Begin’s Jerusalem residence, as well as the homes of other ministers. to accuse the government of selling them out. When demonstrators climbed onto the porch of Interior Minister Yosef Burg’s house, a number of policemen and security personnel were called in. Two demonstrators were taken into police custody. The rest, who had intended holding an all-night vigil in the area, were dispersed by morning.
One of the demonstrators taken into custody, Yehuda Etzion, noted that the Gush had decided to hold their “Slichot” prayers preceding the High Holy Days outside the Prime Minister’s residence. “We are entering an unprecedented struggle,” he said, adding that “the government is leading us to a holocaust.”
Meanwhile, settlers from the Rafah salient were also active over the weekend. They set up a roadblock near Yamit yesterday morning in a well-organized protest against handing the Israeli settlement over to Egypt. Displaying placards which read “Road closed due to sell-out of principles,” the settlers managed to block the El Arish road with about a dozen tractors. The protest, which lasted about four hours, ended peacefully when police and soldiers arrived on the scene and ordered the tractors moved. However, the protestors then managed to tie up the normally heavy Saturday beach traffic by driving their tractors and pick-up trucks slowly along the road. Supporters of the demonstration lined the roadside, handing out flyers which pronounced the Camp David accords as “No Peace” and “Peace Without Security.”
This morning a group of Rafah settlers staged a demonstration outside the Premier’s office in Jerusalem, where the Cabinet session was taking place. Carrying placards which read, “Peace Without the Rafah Salient is Like a Body Without a Soul,” the settlers strongly denounced the expected removal of settlements, and called on each of the Ministers at the meeting by means of two loudspeakers directed at the building. “Begin, why are you afraid to come to Yamit?” they called, or “Dayan, yesterday Alignment, today Likud, tomorrow Sheli and maybe later Rakah.”
Meanwhile, last night, a rally opposing the dismantling of any settlements was held at Nahalal, the moshav in which Dayan has been a member since childhood. There were some 400 representatives from various groups including the Labor Party’s kibbutz and moshav movements, the Greater Israel Movement, Gush Emunim and members of Herut. The chief argument was that to give up settlements in Sinai would set a precedent for removing settlements in other areas.
A settler from Sadot, the flourishing moshav near Yamit, argued that if Yamit was an obstacle to peace with Egypt then the Jezreel Valley, where Nahalal is located, will be an obstacle to peace with Jordan, and the Huleh region an obstacle to peace with Syria. The two areas are Israel’s richest agricultural centers and contain the majority of kibbutzim and moshavin in the country.