TEL AVIV (Jun. 17)
Some 30,000 persons, responding to a call by the Peace Now Movement, massed in Tel Aviv last night to protest the government’s settlement policy and specifically the controversial Gush Emunim settlement of Alon Moreh near Nablus, A cable was read, signed by 62 prominent American Jews, warning that the new settlement undermined Israel’s credibility in the eyes of the world. Among the signatories were Saul Bellow, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein and the actor, Theodore Bikel.
The Prime Minister’s Office claimed today that no such cable had been received. An American academician, Prof. Leonard Fein of Harvard, and editor of the Jewish magazine, Moment, who addressed the rally, questioned a statement made in Jerusalem Thursday by Theodore Mann, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, that the consensus among American Jews was that the West Bank settlements were “legal” and “necessary” for Israel’s security. Mann did not specifically mention Alon Moreh in that connection. Fein declared that there is no consensus of American Jewry in support of the settlements. He said there are many American Jews who feel that Israel’s settlement policy, as it is being carried out, can create serious divisions. (See separate story, page 3)
The cable from the U.S. expressed anxiety over the decision to set up yet another settlement on the West Bank on the eve of negotiations-with Egypt and the U.S. on the future of that territory. While stating that they understand that there are legal and historic factors which prompt Jewish settlements, the signatories declared that “Alon Moreh undermines the credibility of Israel in the eyes of the West Bonk people and the nations of the world.” They also said that “A policy that requires forfeiture of Arab lands is regarded by us as unacceptable from a moral point of view and harms the democratic character of the Jewish State.”
Other speakers denounced Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon for his Knesset speech last week in which he referred to the Peace Now Movement as a “fifth column.” They noted that most Peace Now members are veterans who fought for Israel. “With whom would (Sharon) go to war if we are a fifth column?” they asked. S. Ishar, a former Knesset member declared that the time has come for general elections “so that the nation can say ‘no’ to Begin’s historic dreams.”
RIOTS IN NABLUS
Riots broke out in Nablus today after the Military Governor of the West Bank prohibited a protest march by local residents to the site of Alon Moreh. About 1000 Arab youths burned tires and hurled stones at Israeli soldiers and police in the Casba district of the town. Two soldiers and one local youth were slightly injured. The crowd was dispersed with tear gas. An Israeli army truck was see on fire by youths who fled when the soldiers fired into the air. The violence erupted after some 1500 Nablus residents gathered outside the Military Governor’s residence to present a petition protesting Alon Moreh. The town was quiet by evening but the air of tension remained.
On Friday, residents of Rujeib village near Nablus whose land was seized for the new settlement, appealed to the Supreme Court to nullify the seizure and to evict the settlers, their tents, prefabricated structures and earth-moving equipment Justice Shlomo Asher, who received the appeal, denied the petitioners a temporary injunction to halt the settlement work and referred their appeal to a three-judge panel. No date was set for a hearing.
Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, who returned from a six-day archaeological tour of Egypt Friday, expressed serious concern over Begin’s assertion the night before that “there will be many more Alon Morehs.” Yadin indicated that he was especially embarrassed because, at a meeting he had with President Anwar Sadat Thursday, the issue of provocative statements by Israeli leaders was taken up. Yadin countered by pointing to the bitter personal attacks on Begin published in Egyptian newspapers but he also promised to try to influence his colleagues in the Cabinet to avoid making statements that do not help the peace process.
MORE SETTLEMENTS PROMISED
Begin made his remarks at a festive meeting at Benyamina on the West Bank marking the 40th anniversary of the militant Betar movement. “There will be many more Alon Morehs. We shall continue to settle in Eretz Israel in the Samaria and Judaea, the Gaza Strip and Golan,” Begin declared.
He also appeared to imply that Zionism sanctioned Jewish settlements in heavily Arab populated territory when he asked, rhetorically: “What is Zionism? Was it not the settlement of an Arab populated area? Was not Haifa a Jewish settlement in an Arab-populated area? Was not Jerusalem populated by Arabs when Jews come there? And was not Tel Aviv built just touching a large Arab town?” (Jaffa).
Sharon, a member of the Israeli delegation negotiating with Egypt and the U.S. over autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip had harsh words of the U.S. in an interview published in Maariv Friday. He accused the Americans of endangering the peace process by “ceaselessly involving the peace process by “ceaselessly involving themselves in the affairs of the Arabs in the territories.” He said it was clear to him beyond any doubt that an understanding with the Americans on the subject of autonomy was impossible. “In this respect, the U.S. is much more extreme than Egypt because of its interest in the Mideast. It is unlikely that the Egyptians will adopt a more moderate stand than the Americans,” Sharon said. He charged that “It is the purpose of the American policy to press Israel to establish a second Palestinian state-the first one is Jordan.”Therefore, he said, it is Israel’s duty to reject the American attempt to participate as full partners to the autonomy talks.