TEL AVIV (Jun. 21)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Wednesday that he had not feared for his safety, but for the future of the country, when he was cursed, taunted and physically threatened at the funeral Tuesday of a West Bank settler murdered by Arabs.
While he attributed the hostile demonstration to a “handful of extremists” not supported by the majority of West Bank residents, Shamir admitted he is concerned for national unity.
Everything possible must be done to prevent a war among the Jews, he told an Israel Radio interviewer.
“Our only hope is to preserve national unity at all costs,” Shamir said. He urged citizens to maintain order and to prevent irresponsible acts by individuals.
The fracas occurred at the funeral of Frederick Rosenfeld, a recent emigrant from the United States who settled in the West Bank town of Ariel.
He was stabbed to death while hiking in the area Saturday. The Israel Defense Force announced Tuesday that it had arrested three Arabs from a neighboring village who had confessed to the crime.
But that did not placate the thousands of settlers at the funeral, who accused the government of inadequate protection and demanded harsher measures to suppress the Palestinian uprising.
SURROUNDED BY ANGRY SETTLERS
Shamir’s attempt to deliver a eulogy for Rosenfeld was drowned out by catcalls and cries of “traitor.”
Soldiers and police had to form a security wedge around the prime minister as he left the scene. His car was surrounded by settlers, who pummeled it with their fists.
Shamir said such demonstrations only encourage Palestinian activists to believe that the Jews are disunited.
He said the shooting of two Arabs near Petach Tikva shortly after the funeral was another act bound to strengthen Arab extremists. A Jewish settler from the West Bank was arrested for the shooting.
Shamir said the government is doing everything necessary to maintain order. But many settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are convinced that the 18-month-old Palestinian uprising could be swiftly crushed if tougher measures were taken.
Shamir did say that defense officials are considering plans to integrate Jewish settlers into local security arrangements.
Leftist elements are opposed, saying it would be like allowing thieves to guard thieves.