TEL AVIV (Aug. 18)
The 10-member Inner Cabinet today rejected efforts by Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir to uphold plans by a group of West Bank settlers to occupy an apartment they reportedly bought from Arabs in the Arab casbah quarter of Hebron.
Settlers from Kiryat Arba, the township adjacent to Hebron, were ousted twice last week by the Israel Defense Force from the apartment that is now occupied by six rightwing Knesset members, headed by Geula Cohen of the Tehiya Party.
The Inner Cabinet, by dividing along political lines in a 5 to 5 split vote, in effect rejected the motion presented by Shamir. The political make-up of the Inner Cabinet of the coalition government — five Labor and five Likud members — makes tie votes the rule rather than the exception.
Shamir said that previous Cabinet decisions had allowed Jews to occupy any property they had legally acquired, anywhere in the country. But Labor Party officials said the apartment in the casbah, in which the six MKs from the Tehiya, Morasha and Likud parties are now squatting, was bought through illegal methods.
According to residents of Kiryat Arba, the apartment was one of about a score bought in recent months from Arab owners with money raised in Israel and abroad for the purpose of “liberating” Hebron houses from Arabs.
PERES: SQUATTERS ARE CONTRAVENING THE STATUS QUO
Premier Shimon Peres said last week that the settlers’ action in expanding their presence in Hebron was a contravention of the status quo. The squatters said their action was merely an implementation of a decision by the previous Likud government that Jews had the right to reside anywhere in Eretz Yisrael.
Shamir contended that it was inconceivable that the government should prevent Jews from living anywhere they wanted or to purchase land or property from Arabs, as this had been one of the mainsprings of the Zionist endeavor in Palestine during the British Mandate.
In view of earlier Cabinet rulings — mainly by the Likud government — no new Cabinet decision was required to allow the occupation of the Hebron apartment now in dispute, Shamir asserted.
Today’s Inner Cabinet was a stormy two-and-a-half hour meeting held at the end of the regularly scheduled weekly Cabinet session, with Likud and Labor ministers trading insults and accusations.
The other item which was to have been on the agenda for the Inner Cabinet meeting — the Taba controversy with Egypt — was not brought up for debate owing to the lack of time, and will be discussed at a later date.
NEED NEW CABINET DECISION ON LEGALITY
Israel Radio reported that according to a legal opinion requested by Peres, on the basis of a search of Cabinet papers, a new Cabinet decision was indeed required for the legal occupation of the premises in the Arab quarters of Hebron. The apartment in dispute is, furthermore, outside the area designated as the “Jewish quarter of Hebron,” the radio said.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said earlier today that, according to legal advice he had requested and obtained, the parliamentary immunity of Knesset members now squatting in the Hebron apartment extended beyond the green line into the occupied territories, and the IDF would therefore take no action to try and oust the Knesset member squatters.
The Defense establishment will now decide on what action to take, and how and when to act against the squatters. The Judaea and Samaria Jewish Settlers Association met tonight to decide what they could do to support the Knesset members now living temporarily in the apartment.