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Cabinet Moves to Find Another Site for the Elon Moreh Settlement

The Cabinet today empowered the Ministerial Defense Committee to find another site for the Gush Emunim settlement of Elon Moreh. But the two principal supporters of the Gush, Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon and Education Minister Zevulun Hammer, dissented angrily and fear was expressed in some circles that this might encourage the settlers to resist forcibly when the army carries out the Supreme Court’s Oct. 22 order to dismantle the settlement in 30 days.

The Cabinet majority made it clear that the government will abide by the high court’s ruling that Elon Moreh was established illegally on seized Arab lands and must be removed. But the issue has aroused intense emotions. Sharon, a member of the Ministerial Defense Committee, declared that he would have no part in the effort to find an alternative site for Elon Moreh.

According to an Israel Radio report, Sharon stalked out of the Cabinet room when Defense Minister Ezer Weizman began a lengthy presentation of his views, that the settlement question must be dealt with in the broader context of the over all peace process. After the session, Hammer, a leader of the National Religious Party, said he was “dissatisfied” that the Cabinet has deferred a showdown on the settlement issue.

DEBATE TO CONTINUE WITHIN 10 DAYS

The debate over future settlement policy in light of the Supreme Court’s Elon Moreh decision began today but reached no conclusions. It will be resumed at another session within 10 days, the Cabinet announced.

In preparation for the debate, the Defense Ministry has compiled statistics showing that since 1967 61,000 dunams (15,000 acres) of privately owned land on the West Bank have been seized by the military authorities and 80,000 dunams (20,000 acres) were purchased from private owners. (See separate story P.3.).

The crisis over Elon Moreh developed when the Supreme Court flatly rejected the government’s claim that the settlement was necessary for security purposes, It charged that civilian authorities used security as a pretext to satisfy the demands of the Gush Emunim and that the military knowingly went along with that subterfuge.

SHARON, SHAMIR IN HEATED EXCHANGE

Much of today’s Cabinet session was taken up by a vituperative exchange between Sharon and Attorney General Yitzhak Shamir. Shamir took the Agriculture Minister to task for his bitter public attacks on the Supreme Court’s decision and his charges that government attorneys mishandled the case before the high court. Shamir echoed the extraordinary public rebuke delivered to Sharon yesterday by Amnon Goldenberg, chairman of the Tel Aviv Bar Association.

Goldenberg, once a candidate for the office of Minister of Justice in Premier Menachem Begin’s Cabinet, was incensed by Sharon’s demands for retroactive legislation that would nullify the Supreme Court’s Elon Moreh decision and bar it from ruling on settlement issues in the future.

“Anyone who talks like that is talking rot.” Goldenberg declared during a reception in Jerusalem for newly qualified lawyers. He said the kind of legislation Sharon demanded would threaten the basic foundation of democracy in Israel — the rule of law.

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