The Knesset unanimously adopted a resolution last night condemning the terrorist ambush that claimed the lives of six Jews in Hebron last Friday. But the stormy debate over responsibility for the incident and future policy on the West Bank, underlined the deep divisions within the Knesset and the public at large which have surfaced as a result of the Hebron tragedy.
The moderates scored a victory today when the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee postponed a crucial vote on an appeal against a Cabinet majority decision to establish two Jewish religious schools in Hebron.
Committee chairman Moshe Arens, a Herut hard-liner, objected vehemently, apparently because he was convinced that the appeal against the decision by Deputy Premier Yigael Yodin’s Democratic Movement would be rejected. But he was failed by Pessach Grupper of Likud’s Liberal Party wing who intimated that if Arens forced the issue, the Liberals would vote with the opposition.
BITTER CHARGES AND COUNTER CHARGES
The Knesset debate was marked by bitter changes and counter charges hurled by right wing extremists, moderates and leftists. The exchange was triggered by Labor MK Haim Barlev who observed that the Hebron killings could have been avoided had the government implemented its own decision to evacuate a group of Gush Emunim women who have been occupying a former Hadassah clinic in Hebron for the past year.
Barlev referred to the weekly “procession” by religious militants from the Machpela Cave synagogue to the former clinic to demonstrate their solidarity with the squatters. He called this a needless provocation at a time when Israel should seek to minimize friction between Jews and Arabs.
Moshe Tamir and Geula Cohen of the ultranationalist Tehiya faction responded that if the women were a provocation, the entire Zionist enterprise was a provocation. The shouting match that ensued ended only after Knesset Speaker Yitzhak Berman ordered Cohen ejected from the chamber.
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, target of a fierce attack from religious and nationalist militants for alleged laxity in dealing with West Bank Arabs, defended the Military Government’s policies in the territory. He called for a careful, non-extremist policy in the future. Weizman conceded that political considerations, particularly those connected with the peace process and the current round of autonomy talks, guided Israeli policy on the West Bank to some extent. But he firmly denied that this had “cost lives.” He urged that the pursuit of peace should continue to be the basis of all Israeli actions.
The Knesset resolution called for the restoration of law and order in the territories to ensure. peaceful co-existence between Jews and Arabs. The resolution expressed condolences to the families of the Hebron victims and wished the wounded a speedy recovery. Yehuda Ben-Meir, a National Religious Party hard-liner, demanded legal measures that would place actions by the Military Government beyond the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. He was referring to a temporary injunction granted by the high court yesterday barring the deportation of West Bank political figures without due process. The injunction was issued on the appeal of the Palestinian Council of National Guidance, which was set up as the leading body of the Arabs in the administered territories, after the mayors of Hebron and Halhoul and the Moslem religious judge of Hebron were summarily deported following the Hebron killings.
Nevertheless, Amnon Linn of Likud’s La’am faction urge the deportation of every member of the Council and of the principals of any school on the West Bank whose students participate in anti-Israel demonstrations. But Weizman made it clear that the Military Government is not planning any further deportations at this time.
‘BATTLE OF ADS’
The polarization was evident in the public sector today, in a ‘battle of ads’ published in major newspapers. One advertisement enjoined Barlev to remember the 1978 Haifa-Tel Aviv coastal road massacre by noting that “There were no women from the Hadassah building at that time.” The same ad also claimed that the former Chief of Staff was responsible for a “national disaster” the impact of which is still fell today. The reference was to the breaching of the “Barlev Line” on the Suez Canal by Egyptian troops in the initial stages of the 1973 war.
Another advertisement was aimed of Weizman. “Can you say with all frankness and truth that our hands have not shed this blood?” it asked An advertisement signed by Irit Blitzer, who said she was the mother of two sons, asked the government: “Is your belief in life weaker than the belief of the Hadassah (clinic) women? What are you doing to enable our sons to live. Mothers of sons, tell (Premier Menachem) Begin that not only the Gush Emunim has a say in our country. We want to know why is a settlement in Hebron so vital for our security?”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.