Gush Settlers Demand Begin Order Army Remove Road Block Near Nablus

A group of Gush Emunim settlers, supported by five howkish Knesset members, demanded tonight that Premier Menachem Begin order the army to remove a road block that has prevented them since yesterday from establishing an unauthorized settlement near Nobles in the Samaria district of the West Bank.

The would-be settlers, some 25 families with women and children left their temporary encampment inside the perimeter of the Kadum army base for what they claimed was a permanent site promised them by the authorities. Israeli troops set up a road block barring their access to the site and the Gush spent the night by the roadside. So for the army has taken no action to remove them.

Three Likud MKs, Geula Cohen, Dov Shilansky and Moshe Shamic, and Haim Druckman of the National Religious Party, rushed to the scene and fired off a telegram to Begin to order The road black removed. Cohen spent the night with the Gush and was joined this morning by another militant, Yigael Hurwitz of Likud’s Laam faction. Interior Minister Yosef Burg of the NRP also visited the squatters today but they were unable to persuade him to issue a political statement on their behalf.

The Gush group, which was the first to establish itself illegally on the West Bank in 1975, apparently sought a confrontation to obtain publicity. They announced in advance their intention to occupy the unauthorized site. A Gush spokesman, Benny Ketzover, told reporters last night, “This time we are in earnest. We are not turning back.” He said “perhaps overnight Premier Begin will come to realize that he cannot stop Jews from settling anywhere in Eretz Israel.”

SEEKING TO FORCE SHOWDOWN

The group dispatched a letter to Begin and to three Cabinet ministers–Zebulon Hammer, Haim Landau and Ariel Sharon–urging that their settlement plans be placed on the Cabinet’s agenda immediately for approval. Their action appeared to be part of a coordinated plan by the Gush to force a showdown with the government on the settlement issue. Last Wednesday army units evacuated two groups of Gush squatters from other unauthorized sites in the Samaria district.

The resurgence of Gush activity coincided with the end of the three-month period of peace negotiations with Egypt that began following the Camp David summit meeting in September. Israel undertook at that time to freeze settlement activity in the occupied territories. But a dispute developed almost immediately between Begin who insisted that the freeze was for three months only and President Carter who said it was to last for the duration of peace talks. Although the three months ended Dec. 17, the government has refrained until now from establishing new settlements.

WEITZ CRITICIZES THE GUSH

Ranaan Weitz, head of the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Department, sharply criticized the Gush today. He called them a band of activists who are trying to force the government to {SPAN}###{/SPAN}{SPAN}###{/SPAN} but know nothing themselves about settlements. Meanwhile Gush supporters deliberately parked vehicles across main roads in various parts of the West Bank. “If Jews cannot move freely, neither will Arabs,” they said, Soldiers and border police removed the vehicles without incident.

In a related incident, Gen. Avraham Orli, coordinator of activities in the occupied terroritories, met separately yesterday with Mayor Fahed Kawasme of Hebron and Rabbi Moshe. Levinger, leader of the Orthodox community of Kiryat Arba that adjoins it. His purpose was to prevent incidents after clashes Saturday between troops and some 300 Kiryat Arba Jews who wanted to pray at the Patriarchs Tomb in Hebron, a shrine sacred to both Jews and Moslems.

The worshippers were evacuated by soldiers after Local Arabs complained that Jews had in fringed on their part of the tomb. The troops were then barely able to calm a crowd of angry Moslems waiting for their turn to pray.

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