JERUSALEM (Jan. 6)
A Cabinet sharply divided over compensation to the Yamit settlers will meet at Premier Menachem Begin’s home tomorrow morning to consider a compromise package that reportedly would cost the government more than 4 billion Shekels.
The package was worked out between Deputy Premier and Agriculture Minister Simcha Ehrlich and the settlers of Yamit and Rafah in northern Sinai who must relocate after the region is returned to Egypt next April. Ehrlich insists the deal was “the best obtainable” if any agreement was to be reached.
But Finance Minister Yoram Aridor promptly announced that he would oppose it because the sum violated government guidelines. The 4 billion Shekel figure was reported by Israel Radio tonight but there was no official confirmation.
Deputy Premier and Housing Minister David Levy is also expected to oppose the settlement as a sell-out to the settlers. Levy has been the most outspoken of several Cabinet Ministers who have been urging the government to crack down on the Sinai settlers and the Gush Emunim squatters who have joined them in disorderly acts aimed at preventing Israel’s withdrawal. Ehrlich has threatened to wash his hands of the entire matter if the settlement is rejected.
He is expected to have the support of Defense Minister Ariel Sharon who is the minister most sympathetic to the settlers’ demands. Political observers said the decision would depend on Begin’s position which remains unknown. The Premier, recovering from a painful hip injury, has not attended recent Cabinet meetings. Both Aridor and Ehrlich are key supporters and he will be loath to cross either one of them, observers said tonight.