TEL AVIV (Apr. 23)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin flatly rejected claims by Jewish settlers in the West Bank, particularly the settlers of Alfe-Menashe and Ariel, for the same security sensitive status as Israeli towns on the northern borders.
He stated furthermore that the territory on which those settlements are located would be negotiable when the time came for peace talks with Jordan. Rabin’s remarks, at a meeting of the Labor Party Central Bureau Thursday, unleashed a storm of protest from Likud.
Alfe-Menashe and Ariel lie close to the old “green line,” the demarcation line between Israel and the West Bank. A resident of Alfe-Menashe died April 11 in a firebomb attack on a car which severely burned her husband, three children and a friend. The incident triggered demands by settlers for improved security.
Rabin maintained that “The status of Alfe-Menashe is similar to that of Afule (in the Emek).” He said neither Alfe-Menashe nor Ariel contribute to Israel’s security. “From the defense viewpoint there is no difference between Ariel and Afule,” he said.
Likud MK Eliahu Ben-Elissar called Rabin’s assertions “most serious.” He said that “If Alfe-Menashe, which lies only a few dozen meters from what was the green line — the 1949 ceasefire line with Jordan — is open to negotiation, then Rosh Haayin and Kfar Saba (both within Israel’s 1967 boundaries) are also open to negotiation because they are close to the old border.”
Labor MK Simcha Dinitz, who was private secretary to the late Premier Golda Meir, recalled later that when she was once asked if Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were open to negotiation in direct peace talks, Meir replied, “Yes, but we won’t agree to give them up even though the Arabs may claim them.”
Dinitz pointed out that the Labor Party’s platform calls for direct negotiations with the Arabs without pre-conditions. “The Arabs can put anything they want on the agenda for discussion, which doesn’t mean we have to accept their demands,” Dinitz said.