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Arab Landowners Take Legal Action to Speed Evacuation of Elon Moreh

Eighteen Arab landowners from Nablus and Rujeib village look legal action today to effect the immediate evacuation of Elon Moreh. Their petition was submitted to a Jerusalem magistrate who is expected to decide tomorrow whether to issue an order nisi against the government or refer the matter to a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court.

The Arabs based their appeal on the-Supreme Court’s ruling of Oct. 22; 1979 that Elon Moreh was established illegally on seized Arab lands and must be removed in 30 days. Although several parcels of land have been returned to their Arab owners, the Cabinet has twice extended the deadline for the evacuate on. On Dec. 30 it gave the Gush Emunim settlers another five weeks to move on grounds that the new settlement being built for them at Djebil Kebir could not be completed before then.

The Arab petitioners argued that the government was not fulfilling its obligations under the law, noting that the original expropriation of the land to build Elon Moreh has been declared illegal by the high court. They urged the government to free itself from the dictates of the Gush Emunim and reestablish the rule of law in the territory.

The Cabinet-ordered delay in evacuating Elon Moreh aroused an angry controversy in Israel and renewed charges by opposition factions that the government was surrendering to the Gush Emunim and was trying to avoid compliance with the Supreme Court’s orders.

PEACE NEW MEMBERS BLOCKADE SETTLEMENT

Last Saturday, several hundred members of the Peace Now movement blockaded the settlement with a caravan of vehicles, including two heavy duty trucks loaded with stones, and demanded its immediate evacuation. In the process, they trapped Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon in his car for several hours. Sharon, who was visiting the region, was finally extricated by police. Three Peace new members were arrested for refusing to obey police orders. The rest dispersed after Defense Minister Ezer Weizman agreed to meet with a delegation at an Tel Aviv home.

It was reported later that Weizman promised to convey their demands to the Cabinet for a ban on all new settlements on the West Bank while the autonomy negotiations with Egypt are in progress and to reject Gush Emunim demands for changes in the legal status of the West Bank.

Meanwhile, the government now faces a new challenge in the courts as a result of today’s action by the Arab landowners. Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir had warned of this possibility when the Cabinet extended the Elon Moreh deadline said at the time that if the landowners appealed, the State would have a very poor case.

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