Settlers Mounting Offensive Against Government Cuts

After a week of more bad news, leaders of the settlers movement went on the offensive this week to fight government plans to freeze much of the building and economic enterprises in the administered territories.

Leaders of the settlers met Tuesday for more than four hours to discuss ways of fending off the Rabin government’s anti-settlement policies, which includes massive housing cuts and plans for Palestinian autonomy in the territories.

The meeting was called amid growing criticism by the Jewish settlers of their leaders, whom they charge with ineptitude and failure to respond to the new government’s policies.

The first decision taken by the leaders was to launch a massive public campaign designed to change the negative image of the settlers and encourage more Israelis to move to the territories, despite the new limitations.

The new campaign will feature public figures such as former Housing Ministers Ariel Sharon and Tsomet Party leader Rafael Eitan, whose presence underscores the non-religious elements supporting the settlements.

In an effort to counter the government’s line of encouraging development towns inside Israel proper at the expense of settlements in the territories, the settlers will launch a twin-cities project pairing towns inside the Green Line, Israel’s pre-1967 border, with settlements.

The new campaign will be launched Aug. 10, a day after Tisha B’av, and the day Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is scheduled to leave for a meeting with President Bush in the United States.

“We intend to demonstrate both here and abroad that the Jewish people in the territories will not turn themselves over to a reality of an autonomy and to a reality of construction bans,” said Benny Katzover, head of the regional council of Samaria.

Meanwhile, Industry and Commerce Minister Micha Harish ordered his ministry officials not to approve any new requests for government aid to plants in the administered territories, until a committee appointed this week rezones the country’s development areas.

Many areas in the territories may no longer be considered development area Type A, a classification that entitles residents and businesses for special government assistance, including tax exemptions.

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