JERUSALEM (Mar. 11)
Premier Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon are both reported to have “accepted in principle” a proposal from Education Minister Zevulun Hammer to set up one new settlement in Judaea and Samaria for every settlement dismantled in the Yamit area of northern Sinai.
Israel Radio, discussing Hammer’s plan and his lobbying for it among Cabinet colleagues, said there would be a Cabinet debate and decision to this effect within a short time.
Hammer, as leader of the “Young Guard” within the National Religious Party, is under growing and bitter pressure from some of his supporters as the Yamit evacuation proceeds. It was the NRP Young Guard that was the political progenitor of Gush Emunim which itself gave birth to the “Stop the Withdrawal movement.”
Political observers felt the acceptance “in principle” still would enable Begin and other key ministers to reconsider the plan once the Sinai withdrawal is completed — though there does seem to be some commitment for founding new settlements, on the West Bank.
The Cabinet decision — if it comes — is bound to have adverse effects on the relationship with Washington, especially as both Begin and Sharon told the U.S. last year that Israel was nearing the end of its scheme to found new settlements on the West Bank and would concentrate instead on expanding existing settlements.