JERUSALEM (Mar. 5)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman clashed angrily with Premier Menachem Begin and Cabinet hawks when he declared flatly at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting that the Jewish settlements on the West Bank have no security value and warned that Israel is making the world “sick and tired” by its positions on such issues as Elon Moreh and Hebron.
The confrontation occurred in the course of the Cabinet’s discussion of Saturday’s Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlement policies in the occupied territories and Jerusalem. The Cabinet denounced the resolution of “repugnant” and expressed “deep resentment” toward the United States for supporting it.
Weizman said the settlements simply are not needed for security purposes although they were of national value as an expression of Zionism. Later, under heavy fire from the hawkish ministers, he modified his statement by saying he was referring to settlements like Elon Moreh which had no security value rather than all settlements. Elon Moreh was ordered dismantled by the Supreme Court last October on ground that the governments claims the purpose needed for security were contrary to the acts.
REJECTS ATTACKS ON U.S.
But Weizman, long at adds with the Cabinet majority on the settlements issue, angered the hawks further by asserting that there was no justification to attack the U.S. for its role in the Security Council resolution. President Carter placed his career on the line in the autonomy negotiations, Weizman said, and Israel must learn to live with its differences with the U.S.
He said that the peace treaty with Egypt has not engendered a new spirit in the country but rather an air of depression. The moment of truth has arrived and the world no longer agrees with the Israeli stand on settlements, Weizman said.
His bitter exchange with Begin came after the latter insisted that the settlements were vital to Israel’s security. “We are making everyone sick and fired of us,” the Defense Minister declared. “We spend time on marginal matters like Hebron and Elon Moreh and this dogs on endlessly. Things cannot carry on like this any more.”
Begin retorted, “Keep your voice down please. I am the chairman here. It is I who set the tone at this meeting, not you.” Weizman replied that “if a proposal is tabled here to settle Jews in Hebron I shall vote against it.” Begin reminded Weizman that he had supported the Cabinet decision last month that Israel has the right in principle to settle Jews in Hebron. To which Weizman responded, “I would ask you too not to raise your voice to me.”
The Cabinet deferred a decision on Hebron until its next regular meeting on Sunday. According to reports today, Begin will press for a clear decision to settle Jews in vacant buildings in that West Bank Arab town. It had been reported earlier that the Premier favored a compromise which would establish a yeshiva in Hebron as a symbol of a Jewish presence but not install Jewish families there at this time.
His apparent shift to a tougher stance is believed to have forestalled plans by the Gush Emunim militants of Kiryat Arbo to seize buildings in Hebron without official sanction. The militants have become increasingly impatient with the Cabinet’s reported postponement of a decision on Hebron. Now, confident of Begin’s support, they expect in have their way without taking unilateral action.