JERUSALEM (Nov. 15)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman has ordered the dissolution of the office of coordinator of activities in the occupied territories, the Defense Ministry agency involved in the case of Mayor Bassam Shaka of Nablus. The surprise move, announced late yesterday, indicated to some observers that Weizman was distressed that a leak to the press from that office precipitated the clamor which led to Shaka’s arrest and pending deportation.
The post of coordinator of activities for the West Bank and Gaza Strip is held by Maj. Gen. Danny Matt. It was in the course of a closed meeting with Matt, at which several other officers were present, that Shaka allegedly made statements justifying the March, 1978 terrorist attack on Israel’s coastal highway in which 34 civilians were killed. It was unclear today why Weizman preferred to abolish the office rather than dismiss Matt who, as senior officer, was responsible for the leak whether or not it actually emanated from him.
Sources said that abolition of the office of coordinator has been under consideration for some time. But Weizman was clearly angered over the Shaka incident which, he believes, could have been avoided. The abolition order will take effect in several days, after Chief of Staff Gen. Raphael Eytan returns from his current visit to the U.S.
Meanwhile, unrest continued on the West Bank where protests mounted against the pending deportation of Shaka. General strikes paralyzed Ramallah and Nablus and partial strikes disrupted normal activities in Bethlehem and Hebron. In some towns, high school students boycotted classes and Israeli vehicles were stoned in several instances. Weizman said he would not accept the collective resignations of 23 West Bank and Gaza Strip mayors who walked out this week in solidarity with Shaka. Sources said, however, that the Defense Minister would accept the resignations, particularly of those officials who identify openly with the Palestine Liberation Organization, as soon as suitable replacements can be found.