Tel Aviv (Dec. 16)
Most of the nearly 14,000 members of the Golan Heights Druze community, who comprise two-thirds of the total population of the region, today began observing a three-day strike to protest the virtual annexation of the Heights by the imposition of Israeli civil law there.
While the some 7,000 Jews living in 30 villages in the region continued to express their pleasure at the government move, the army was on a higher state of alert in what army sources described as “routine higher defense precautions.”
The army made little effort to cover up the increased troop and armor movements on the Golan Heights, with foreign television crews moving about freely recording the activities in the area. From the Israeli side of the border, little evidence of increased Syrian military activity could be seen.
THE NEW LAW IN PRACTICE
The actual effect of the new Golan Heights law means that the previous military rule there has now been replaced by the civil law administered throughout the rest of Israel. Certain anomalies are now being removed — such as the application of a law making compulsory the wearing of seat belts in cars while there was no law making residents take out radio and television licenses.
Israeli identity cards will now be available to all residents asking for them. But no Druze or other residents will be forced to apply for or accept them. Some pro-Israeli Druze had taken out Israeli identity cards in recent months but were forced to return them under pressure from Druze religious leaders who by and large are pro-Syrian.
Representatives of the pro-Israeli Druze have called public meetings to request continuation of military law under which they feel safer. But their move is not supported by many of their co-religionists.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Yosef Burg has signed a regulation in pursuit of the Golan law determining in effect that all military ordnances previously applying to the Golan would retain their validity — but would now apply on the basis of civilian powers.
Officials said this general regulation was the first of many that the Interior Ministry would have to process and promulgate in the wake of Monday’s Knesset action applying the “law, jurisdiction and administration” of Israel to the Golan Heights. Two interdepartmental committees have been set up: one to study the legal aspects and the other the administrative aspects of the change of the Golan’s status.