Nrp Decision on Settlements

The executive of the National Religious Party announced a formal decision yesterday to require NRP Cabinet ministers and Knesset members to press for new legislation that would protect Jewish settlements on the West Bank from legal challenges in Israeli courts. The move is expected to end the month long hunger strike by West Bank and Gaza Strip settlers who have been demanding a change in the legal status quo.

The firm language may satisfy the settlers, mostly Gush Emunim activists, but it amounts to less than an irredocable commitment by the NRP. The religious party stated that an amendment to the existing laws was the “basis” for its participation in the coalition government. But it stopped short of stating that its future membership in the government depended on passage of the proposed legislation. At least some of the hunger strikers seemed prepared to end their demonstration after meeting with Premier Menachem Begin yesterday.

Although he gave them no assurances, he clearly sympathizes with their demands. The settlers stressed that their protest was not directed against Begin but against the moderate ministers who oppose any change in the legal status quo.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir presented the Cabinet with a list of legal options ranging from outright annexation of the West Bank to retention of the status quo. Zamir himself offered no recommendation. Some sources said that “reading between the lines” of his presentation indicated that he personally favors the status quo.

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