JERUSALEM (Dec. 22)
A machinegun attack on two Israelis 10 miles from Jerusalem has prompted renewed attacks on the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by members of the Likud and settlers’ groups.
The settlers, who oppose the Palestinian self-rule agreement signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in September, launched renewed demonstrations Wednesday and unveiled plans to double the number of settlements, a move designed to thwart the accord.
On Wednesday, near the West Bank town of Ramallah, two Israeli men who were driving home to central Israel were shot and killed.
Gunmen in a passing car sprayed their vehicle with machine-gun fire.
The terrorists scattered leaflets claiming the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement was responsible for the attack, which they said was in retaliation for the recent killings of Palestinians by Israelis.
In Damascus, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, another group opposed to the accord, also claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the Knesset, where debate on the budget was interrupted by the news of the attack, opposition reaction was harsh.
Likud Knesset member Ron Nachman, who is also the mayor of the settlement of Ariel, laid the blame squarely on the government.
“They are responsible for all the killings which take place now and will take place in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip,” he said.
The government’s policy “is encouraging the Arabs to kill more and more Jews,” Nachman said.
Police Minister Moshe Shahal said Hamas and other Arab rejectionist groups are “sabotaging the peace process by launching acts of terror.”
SETTLERS PLAN 130 NEW SETTLEMENTS
But, he said, “We are dealing with them.”
Meanwhile, a settlers’ group calling itself Zu Artzeinu (“This is our land”) announced it will break ground for 130 new settlements in the territories — which would double the number of settlements — to try to kill the peace process.
At a news conference, the leaders said the plans for Palestinian autonomy and the Israeli military withdrawal from the territories threaten the existence of the entire State of Israel.
“The recent spate of horrifying attacks and brutal murders only highlights the ineffectiveness of the current peace negotiations,” they said.
“With the settlements we are saying to the world that this is our land, it belongs to us and we’re going to come and go as we please, whenever we want, wherever we want, as we see fit,” said Shmuel Sackett, a spokesman for the group.
Each of the new settlements will be named after a victim of Arab terrorism, he said.
Sackett said he got the idea for the settlement project after hearing Foreign Minister Shimon Peres refer to the settlers as an obstacle to peace.
“This is a way to break the peace process,” he said, adding that doubling the number of settlements “is the way to double (the government’s) problems and bring the peace process to a complete halt.”
“There is simply not enough manpower to close down 130 settlements simultaneously,” Sackett said.
Zu Artzeinu, a few weeks old, has collected $400,000, mostly from outside Israel. It is separate from another settlers’ organization, the Council for Jewish Settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, Sackett said.
Sackett said that the group is not looking for violent confrontations and that the settlers have pledged “never to raise a hand to a Jewish soldier.”
Some settlements will obey orders to evacuate if they are issued by the Israeli army, while others will practice non-violent civil disobedience, he said.
While the new settlements were “not a gimmick,” Sackett conceded it would take a while before they became fully established. He also emphasized they would set up on state-owned land and not on Arab property.