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Gush Members Abandon Plot of Land They Seized Illegally

Members of the Gush Emunim settlement of Kedumim abandoned yesterday a one-acre plot of land adjacent to their settlement which they seized illegally Sunday, thus avoiding a clash with troops which had been sent to evict them.

The settlers, who had cut the barbed wire separating their settlement on an army base from the land which is tilled by Arabs, agreed to leave after National Religious Party MK Haim Druckman and an official of the Agriculture Ministry suggested the settlers send a delegation to Jerusalem to discuss the need for more land for West Bank settlements. The decision came as the army was moving into the seized land on which the settlers had put up several mobile homes.

Kedumim was set up following the repeated Gush Emunim attempts to settle near Nablus during the Rabin government. At first it was designated as merely an adjunct to an army camp in the area, and was placed within the army camp perimeter. But since then it has grown and flourished, and while still within the perimeter, it is now plainly in need of room for expansion.

The government and the World Zionist Organization settlement department, however, have arranged for Kedumim to take over the rest of the army camp, which is soon to be vacated by the military. Government and WZO officials contend that this would provide Kedumim, which now has some 100 families, with ample land for all future needs. The settlers, however, are dissatisfied with this offer. They argue that the army camp lands earmarked for their expansion-use are low-lying while they have their hearts set on the surrounding hillsides.

The hillsides, however — and this is the political sensitivity of the issue — are owned either by local Arab villagers or by absent Arabs who have leased them to local people, while the army camp lands are State-owned.

Emunim rejects any distinction-in-principle between the various categories of land-ownership and contends that the requirements of the West Bank Jewish settlements should take priority, where necessary, over local Arab ownership or usage rights with the owners or users receiving adequate cash compensation or alternative land elsewhere.

Sunday’s takeover was in conjunction with a Gush campaign to force the government to enact legislation allowing the takeover of Arab land in Judaea and Samaria for Jewish settlements. After the Kedumim settlers mer yesterday with Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori they seemed to feel that the government might present such legislation. But Zipori said he “promised nothing, I hinted nothing about a government bill to enable land acquisition in Judaea and Samaria.” He said the government is aware of the problem and is dealing with it. “I told the settlers of Kedumim that their action only undermines the usual normal activity.”

The settlers met today with Premier Menachem Begin and asked him to introduce legislation for the State to take over 50,000 dunams of land. There was no word on the Premier’s reaction, but a special Cabinet meeting — under the secrecy blanket of the “ministerial defense committee” — has been scheduled for tomorrow specifically to discuss the problem of West Bank lands. Settlement leaders warned that more actions would be mounted if the government did not come up with satisfactory decisions.

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