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Confrontation Still Looms over Elonmoreh Shift

The prospect of a physical clash between the army and the Gush Emunim settlers at Elon Moreh still looms despite a lengthy meeting this evening between Gush Emunim leaders and Premier Menachem Begin, and despite a Cabinet committee decision earlier in the day pledging a major new settlement effort on the West Bank.

Elon Moreh spokesman Benny Katzover declared tonight that the committee had “not addressed itself to the main problem: the legal status of the West Bank settlements.” He added: “We will stay where we are. There will be no need for a confrontation.” Katzover said he and his colleagues had discussed the legal question with Begin, and “certain ideas.” which he refused to divulge at this stage were raised. Apparently, the Gush Emunim leaders and their legal advisers are still contending that the high court decision of Oct. 22 does not require them to vacate the entire area of Elon Moreh but only the specific 125 dunams belonging to the plaintiffs in the case, Arabs from nearby Rujeib village.

The two top legal officers of the State, Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir and Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir, publicly rejected this interpretation today. They explained in interviews that the court ruling meant that the original order of the Military Government seizing all the land for Elon Moreh was illegal and invalid and therefore it was incumbent on the government to evacuate all the land thereby in effect vitiating that invalid order. Katzover indicated the Gush Emunim might apply to the Supreme Court itself seeking a “clarification” of the meaning of the judgement. He described the 90-minute meeting with Begin as “interesting, serious and held in a good atmosphere.”

CABINET COMMITTEE SPLIT

The Cabinet Committee on Settlement, a body set up this week by Begin and chaired by him, held its first meeting this afternoon and resolved by majority vote to adopt Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s blueprint for five major settlement “blocs” on the West Bank with several additional new settlements proposed by Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon. The committee set the goal of 10,000 new housing units per annum in the West Bank but even the ardently pro-settlement Education Minister Zevulun Hammer of the National Religious Party, conceded that this figure was something of a dream. He said he would be satisfied if the government completed 2000 new dwelling units in the present year.

Two other committee members were outrightly critical of the committee’s majority decision. Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich voted against it, explaining that as former Finance Minister he knew these grandiose schemes were economically impractical in the present economic situation. Tamir appealed against the vagueness and unspecificity of the decision to the full Cabinet.

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