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Tension Heightens on the West Bank

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Tension heightened on the West Bank over the weekend after Israel cracked down on the pro-Palestine Liberation Organization National Guidance Committee and shots were fired Friday night at the home of a leader of the Village Leagues, a group of moderate Palestinians who cooperate with the Israeli authorities.

Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s order last Thursday outlawing the National Guidance Committee — which has in fact been inactive for the past 18 months — was seen as a warning to Jordan to stop interfering in West Bank affairs. The Jordanian government announced officially last week that Village Leagues leaders who did not cease their collaboration with the Israelis within one month would be tried for treason in absentia and executed.

Israel is cultivating and financing the Village Leagues in an effort to create a counter-force to PLO influence on the West Bank. It hopes to eventually replace the pro-PLO mayors of Arab towns with moderates who will cooperate with Israel As a first step, the West bank civilian administration instituted by Sharon is handing over as many local functions as possible to moderate Palestinians.

CORE OF THE NATIONAL GUIDANCE COMMITTEE

Most of the incumbent West Bank mayors are either PLO members or sympathizers who boycott the civil administration. All were duly elected and six of them, headed by Mayor Bassam Shaka of Nablus, form the core of the National Guidance Committee. The committee’s larger forum consists of 24 members representing local municipalities, vocational organizations, welfare and charitable groups, student bodies and the Moslem religious establishment.

Israel considers all of them to be irretrievably pro-PLO and describes Shaka as “the supreme commander of the PLO in the territories.” Shaka and Mayor Karim Khalaf of Ramallah were severely wounded by bombs in June, 1980 and underwent amputations. The perpetrators, never apprehended, are widely believed to have been Jewish settlers bent on revenge for the ambush slaying of six yeshiva students in Hebron a month earlier.

Even before the National Guidance Committee was officially outlawed last week, its leaders were kept under town arrest to restrict their movements. Under the new order, even minor contacts between members, including letters and private conversations, could be considered illegal acts. Their telephones were “out of order” today.

The order was promulgated under the 1945 Emergency Regulations of the British Mandate government which allows the trial of violators before a military court without the right of appeal to civilian courts, including the Supreme Court.

Security forces arrested several persons after the shots were fired Friday night at the home of Fahri Issa in Beit Uniya, near Ramallah. Issa was formerly close to the Jordanian government but that tie was severed when he joined the local Village Leagues.

Mustapha Dudein, a Village Leagues leader from the Hebron area, claimed over the weekend that Saudi Arabia was behind Jordan’s threat against Leagues leaders. Dudein met, at his own request, with Premier Menachem Begin Friday and asked for increased Israeli cash aid to the villages.

Meanwhile, unrest continued on the West Bank. A tourist bus carrying American pilgrims was stoned near Ramallah. Two of the Americans were injured. A melee erupted in Hebron where several score supporters of Israel’s Peace Now movement demonstrated yesterday in sympathy with two local Arab families who said they were being harassed by Jewish settlers in the town.

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