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Beginforegoes West Bank Proclamation

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Premier Menachem Begin declined to present to the Cabinet today the draft of an expected government proclamation on the status of Jewish settlements on the West Bank intended to assure the Gush Emunim that future settlements will not be subject to challenge in the courts. Begin was known to be working, over the weekend on such a statement but apparently decided not to introduce it for the time being because of mounting public protests and strong opposition within his Cabinet to any further appeasement of the Gush Emunim.

Deputy Premier Simcha Ehrlich, leader of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, angrily denounced the Gush Emunim “and those in the government who support it” in a speech in Tel Aviv. “It (the Gush Emunim) tries to create facts in contravention of Cabinet decisions. They consider themselves a state within a state and I am deeply sorry that some ministers negotiate with them on those terms,” Ehrlich said.

He noted that the Gush “are now part of a political grouping whose aim is to fight the government and we should remember that.” Ehrlich was referring to the new ultra-nationalist Tehiya faction headed by Tel Aviv University Prof. Yuval Neeman, which has attracted militants who defected from Herut.

Ehrlich spoke out against behind-the-scenes efforts to draft a new government proclamation aimed at contravening the Supreme Court’s order that the Gush Emunim settlement of Elon Moreh be dismantled because it was established illegally on seized Arab lands. “We have already announced that we will claim sovereignty (over the West Bank) at the end of the five years (autonomy transition period). But if the Cabinet decides now that Judaea and Samaria are not occupied territory (as demanded by the Gush) that would endanger the peace process and violate the Camp David agreements,” Ehrlich said.

The former Finance Minister said he opposed new settlements on the West Bank at this time because of the cost factor. This has been the rallying cry of the Black Panthers and residents of poverty neighborhoods who have token to the streets to denounce the government for spending millions on settlements while slums fester and wage-earners are confronted with soaring prices under the government’s new austerity economic program.

SOME 5000 PEOPLE HOLD RALLY

A bout 5000 members of the Peace Now movement which apposes new settlements on political grounds held a rally in downtown Jerusalem last night. They were joined by Black Panthers, led by Saadia Marciano, who stressed the economic rather than the political aspects. The demonstrators we, a blocked by police when they attempted to march to Begin’s residence. But a small group of Peace Now members maintained an all-night vigil outside the Premier’s home. They demonstrated this morning outside Begin’s office while the Cabinet was in session.

The government has announced that it will guide by the Supreme Court’s ruling to remove Elon Moreh. But the Cabinet decided a week ago to carry out the evacuation in two stages. Some 30 acres of land were returned to their Arab owners last Wednesday. But the settlement remained intact. According to the Cabinet’s decision it will be removed within six weeks by which time the government will have prepared an alternative site at Djebel Kebir a bout six miles away.

This was supposed to be the government’s “last word” on the matter. But Begin’s consultations over the weekend with various ministers and with Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir indicated that it was still trying to find a legal way to preserve Elon Moreh where it is. Begin reportedly told his ministers today that he had been persuaded that a government proclamation would not be useful at this time. It was not clear whether the statement was shelved or will be presented at a later time.

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