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3000 Peace-now Protestors Surround New Gush Settlement

Some 3000 angry members of the Peace Now Movement encircled the controversial new Gush Emunim settlement of Alon Moreh on the West Bank near Nablus yesterday to protest its sanction by the government and expropriation of Arab lands. The demonstrators, who came by bus and private car from cities, towns and kibbutzim, blocked a newly carved access road to the hill top site with large boulders .They dispersed peacefully this morning after Defense Minister Ezer Weizman flew to the scene, agreed that they had a right to protest, but convinced them to move their demonstration to Jerusalem tonight.

The Peace Now group charged that the settlement could have adverse effects on the peace process and accused the government of acting clandestinely and in great haste to erect the settlement because it was aware of the opposition on the part of a large segment of the population . Alon Moreh was approved by a majority of the Cabinet a week ago and the first settlers–all men who left their wives and children at home for the time being– were at the site last Thursday bull-dozing the land and erecting temporary shetters. Tents were provided by the army.

In their exchange with Weizman, the protestors declared, “This is not our conception of settlement.”But the Defense Minister, who was one of the Cabinet minority that opposed Alon Moreh, told them that it was an accomplished fact since the government has decreed it. This evening, work continued on the site following a meeting of the government-Jewish Agency coordinating committee which added its approval to that of the Cabinet.

The Military Governor declared the new settlement closed yesterday but not before the Peace Now demonstrators reached the site in an organized but secret operation similar to the Gush’s own tactics in the past, Troops were sent to prevent confrontation between the protestors and the settlers. The latter, apparently secure in the knowledge that they had the backing of the government and the army, observed the Sabbath quietly. They hinted, however, that they would have called in Gush reinforcements had it not been the Sabbath.

LABOR CHARGES SURRENDER TO ANTI-PEACE ELEMENTS

The Kibbuts Artzi movement released a statement protesting the settlement as did a group of 11 Knesset members, among them former Foreign Minister Abba Eban of the Labor Party, Hillel Seidel of Likud and David Glass and Abraham Melamed of the National Religious Party.

The Labor Alignment also denounced the new settlement as another instance in which the government has surrendered to the demands of the militant Orthodox Gush and other groups “which do not conceal their aim to undermine the peace agreement” with Egypt. Labor MK Yossi Sarid-said Alon Moreh is simply “more sand on the grave of autonomy.” Mapam leaders warned that the events of Hebran may now be repeated at Nablus. They referred to the frequent clashes between Orthodox Jews from Kiryat Arba and the Arab residents of the adjacent town of Hebron.

Meanwhile, Nablus, the largest Arab town on the West Bank, was shut down most of the day by a general strike protesting the new settlement and the expropriation of Arab land. The Mayor warned that responsibility for what may happen rests squarely on the settlers and the Israeli government.

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