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Mixed Reactions to Court Order

The Supreme Court’s ruling that the Gush Emunim settlement of Elon Moreh must be removed from the confiscated Arab land on which it was built was greeted with sharply mixed and emotional reactions today.

At the same time, the court ruling created a serious political dilemma for the government. If the court order is implemented to the letter, the Begin government risks a head-on confrontation with the Gush Emunim and its supporters. If it ignores the ruling — and there may be no legal way to do so — it will face unprecedented internal and international protests and open the government to charges that it has abandoned the rule of law.

The villagers of Rujeib who stand to get their land back were jubilant over the success of their appeal. The Gush members were angered but defiant and indicated that they would welcome a showdown with the government on the issue. Gush supporters in the Knesset were demanding prompt enactment of a law that would retroactively nullify the high court’s decision. Opponents of the Gush praised the court and warned that to defy it would mean abandonment of the rule of law.

Benny Katzover, a Gush leader and settler at Elon Moreh declined to say whether the settlers would resist the court-ordered evacuation by force but expressed confidence that the settlement would continue to exist. “The court ruling does not apply to us, it applies to the government and it is up to the government to decide what to do next, ” he said. Another Gush leader, Rabbi Moshe Levinger, welcomed the court’s decision because it forces the government to face the fact that it cannot use security to justify settlement needs.

VIEWS PRO AND CON

Interior Minister Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party which supports the Gush Emunim said the government would have to study the Supreme Court ruling and “perhaps find a way to reverse the decision that called for the abolishment of a settlement. “Shimon Peres, chairman of the opposition Labor Party, said the court’s ruling must be implemented to the letter and promised that the Labor Alignment would prevent any attempts to circumvent it.

The newly formed, ultra-nationalist Tehjya Party, headed by Prof. Yuval Neeman, said the Knesset must pass a bill within 30 days — the deadline for the evacuation of Elon Moreh–that would permit the government to confiscate land “for public purposes.” Likud MK Dov Shilansky said there was nothing illegal about retroactive legislation that would prevent the evacuation of Elon Moreh.

Yehuda Ben-Meir chairman of the NRP’s Knesset faction, called the court decision “very serious. “He said the NRP would have to consider what steps to take. Likud MK Amnon Lin said the court’s ruling should be implemented out of respect for the law but urged new laws that would prevent the Supreme Court from deciding where and when settlements may be established.

A spokesman for the Peace Now movement hailed the court decision as an important milestone in “the rule of law.” He said the ruling gave legal support to the movement’s own position and political concepts.

Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin, leader of the Democratic Movement, said he approved the court’s decision because he was always opposed to settlements that were not for security purposes. Outgoing Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan said he would not comment on the issue before his resignation takes effect tomorrow afternoon. He said he would have something to say later as a private citizen.

HOPES FOR FULL IMPLEMENTATION

Elias Khouri, the lawyer who represented the Rujeib villagers in their successful appeal, said today, “I have always believed that the Supreme Court would not deviate from its principles which have been firm since the establishment of the State.,” He expressed hope that the ruling would be carried out fully. He could not say how the court’s decision would affect the landowners who did not participate in the appeal which involved only some 30 acres. He explained that because Elon Moreh was scattered over 125 acres of expropriated land, there was no choice but to dismantle the entire settlement.

(In Cairo, Egypt’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Butros Ghali, said the Israeli Supreme Court ruling and the resignation yesterday by Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan “indicate the change in Israeli public opinion for achieving-peace.” He told reporters that the court decision could have significance for the autonomy talks between Egypt, Israel and the United States. The three delegations are to meet this week in London.)

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