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Cabinet Decides to Extend Life of Elon Moreh by Another Five Weeks

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The Cabinet decided by majority vote today to extend the life of Elon Moreh for at least another five weeks the estimated time required to complete construction of a new settlement at Djebil Kebir six miles away. It was the second extension granted by the Cabinet since the Supreme Court ruled last October 22 that Elon Moreh was built illegally on seized Arab lands and must be removed in 30 days.

The first extension expires January 3. Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor read a Cabinet statement that blamed “regretfully” the difficult topographical conditions at the new site and recent heavy rains that slowed down work. It was clear when the Cabinet met that even with helicopters lifting tractors and other heavy equipment to Djebil Kebir, the deadline this Thursday could not be met.

Nevertheless, the three Democratic Movement ministers voted against the second extension. Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir told reporters that he hoped to avoid a clash between the militant Gush Emunim settlers and the army and for that reason he had voted for the original six week extension last month. “In my opinion, that was time enough,” Tamir said.

Deputy Premier. Simcha Ehrlich, leader of the Liberal Party, supported the extension but said his approval was conditional on formal assurances from the settlers that they will leave Elon Moreh peacefully. Amnon Rubinstein, leader of the opposition Shai faction, denounced the Cabinet’s decision. “There is apparently no limit to the government’s readiness to demean itself and kowtow to the Gush Emunim,” he said. Similar comments were made by Labor Alignment spokesmen.

REJECTS ATTORNEY GENERAL’S ADVICE

The Cabinet acted on its own initiative, in effect rejecting the advice of Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir who stated, in a written opinion submitted to Premier Menachem Begin, that it was not reasonable to extend the deadline. He said the extension would be impossible to defend in court should the owners of the affected land decide to bring new legal action. Therefore. Zamir questioned the wisdom and propriety of applying to the Supreme Court for an extension of the long-passed time limit.

Technically, that limit was complied with when several parcels of land were returned last month to Arab villagers who had filed the original complaint. The government has acknowledged that the entire settlement must be removed since it had been established for “security” reasons that the high court found not to exist.

Work at Djebil Kebir, which is located on State owned land, began only three weeks ago after the Elon Moreh settlers indicated that they would leave peacefully. Subsequently they made their compliance contingent on the adoption of new legislation to change the legal status of Jewish settlements on the West Bank in a way that would bar future court challenges.

Any such measure is almost certain to be defeated in the Knesset and is therefore unacceptable to the government. A violent confrontation between the settlers and the army is still possible. Begin apparently is banking on the assurance by National Religious Party right-winger Haim Druckman that the Gush Emunim leadership has promised that the Elon Moreh settlers would transfer peacefully to Djebil Kebir.

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