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Weizman Wins First Round in Battle with Sharon over Elon Moreh

Defense Minister Ezer Weizman appears to have won the first round in his increasingly bitter feud with Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon over implementation of the Supreme Court’s order of Oct. 22 to remove the Gush Emunim settlement of Elon Moreh from seized Arab lands within 30 days.

Only 15 days remain before the deadline, and Sharon, the most outspoken Cabinet hawk has been battling to keep Elon Moreh where it is. The government, however, is officially committed to abide by the letter and spirit of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Both Sharon and Weizman have threatened to resign and each is seeking the support of Premier Menachem Begin. Begin’s sympathies lie with the Gush, but he is requited to uphold the law. Yesterday, the Minister at Defense Committee authorized Weizman to discuss various alternative sites for Elon Moreh with the settlers. Sharon boycotted the session. Later, the Cabinet accepted Weizman’s proposal to move the settlers to a temporary site until a permanent location is agreed to. In doing so, it rejected a counter-proposal by Begin to move the settlers to a nearby military encampment.

SHARON CHARGES WEIZMAN WITH PLOTTING

The Weizman-Sharon battle was enlivened yesterday when Sharon publicly accused the Defense Minister of plotting the downfall of Begin’s government by deliberately forcing a confrontation with the Gush Emunim. He reportedly claimed, in a private telephone conversation with Begin, that Weizman’s choice of alternative settlement sites was “cynical” and calculated to be unacceptable to the Gush. Sharon’s associates leaked the contents of the conversation to the media.

There was no immediate reaction from Weizman. But Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori said there was no need to comment on statements “by all kinds of people who jumped on the He rut bandwagon after the elections. to the Knesset.” He was referring to the sect that Sharon’s small shalom Zion faction joined Begin’s coalition shortly after the Likud victory in the May, 1977 elections. Zipori stressed that the Defense Minister will carry out the resolutions of the government to abide by the supreme Court’s decision.

Sharon himself had no comment on his deteriorating relations with the Defense Minister. But in his telephone conversation with Begin he reportedly spoke scornfully of the four alternative sites. proposed by the Defense Ministry for Elon Moreh. These are Nahal outposts — temporary civilian dwellings in large army training camps — which the Defense Ministry selected after painstaking examination by government legal experts to confirm their status as State owned land.

According to Sharon the sites were “miles away” from Elon Moreh which is only three kilometers from the large Arab town of Nablus. He said one was on a barely accessible hilltop and another in a gorge surrounded by Arab villages.

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