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Labor’s Hope for Early Elections Stalled by Tehiya Panel Vote

The Tehiya Party Central Committee’s 29-9 vote Sunday against early elections has killed Labor Party hopes to dissolve the Knesset before summer recess. Labor cannot muster the requisite majority without Tehiya’s five votes. But it has pledged to do everything possible to block the rapid expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, promised by Premier Yitzhak Shamir Sunday to Tehiya leader Yuval Neeman.

The Tehiya leadership insisted that its stand against early elections did not result from the latest opinion poll, which showed the party would suffer if it helped bring down the Labor-Likud unity coalition government. They also denied having served Shamir with an ultimatum that Tehiya would support Labor’s early elections efforts unless its demands for new settlements are met.

Nevertheless, the party seemed pleased with Shamir’s assurances. Neeman told the Central Committee that the Premier promised funds would be made available to expand existing settlements, strengthen the Jewish infrastructure in the territories and complete building the six new settlements called for in the coalition agreement.

PROMISED THOUSANDS OF UNITS

He promised that “thousands” of new housing units would be built in the West Bank this year. According to Neeman, at least 3,000 flats will be added in Kiryat Arba, Emanuel, Ariel and smaller settlements. Neeman said Shamir also approved Tehiya’s plan for massive road construction in the territories. Work on the new settlements of Hadar Beiter near Jerusalem, and Avnei-Hefetz near Kalkilya will begin immediately, Neeman said.

In addition, he said he was assured by Shamir that the dispossessed Arabs of Ikrit and Biram in the Galilee will not be allowed to return to the sites of those villages which were razed by the Israel Defense Force during the War for Independence in 1948. Labor is determined to prevent Shamir from delivering on his promises. Next Sunday’s Cabinet meeting will debate last Sunday’s attempt to begin breaking ground for the new settlement of Avnei-Hefetz before building permits were issued.

A fleet of bulldozers, dispatched to the site by Minister of Commerce and Industry Ariel Sharon, was turned back by troops acting on direct orders from Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

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