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Peres and Gaza Strip Jewish Settlers Heading for an Angry Confrontation

Premier Shimon Peres may be heading for an angry confrontation with Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip and possibly with his own Likud coalition partners over the policies he has enunciated for the territory.

In particular, the impending relocation of 4,300 Arab refugees from the Egyptian to the Israeli side of the Sinai border–in compliance with the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty terms–has infuriated the settlers, who are threatening to prevent the move.

They denounced the idea of adding to the Arab population of the territory and met Sunday with Gen. Uri Sagui, commanding officer of the southern region, to air their complaints.

Peres, who has raised the idea of implementing unilateral autonomy in the Gaza Strip, elaborated on his proposal in an interview to be published in The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. He stressed, however, that he has no intention of dismantling Jewish settlements because “the scandals would begin immediately.”

But he also stressed that no more land should be taken over for Jewish settlement. “I ask myself whether there is any justification for taking an additional 10,000 acres while the Negev, with three million acres, is almost devoid of settlers,” Peres told the Post.

He said that despite the difficulties, “there are people in Gaza who would like to try their hand at the application of autonomy.” He said Israel would have to act unilaterally because of Cairo’s apparent lack of interest in an Egyptian-Israeli condominium in Gaza. He noted that the population of the territory has nearly doubled in the past 20 years–from 300,000 after the Israeli takeover to 560,000 now.

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