Jerusalem (Mar. 11)
— Local government was established for two more Jewish settlements on the West Bank today in an effort to further entrench Israel’s presence in that territory whose Arab inhabitants are supposed to be given autonomy within the framework of the Camp David accords. Town Councils were named in Maale Ephraim, north of Jericho, and in Ariel in the Samaria district, and similar bodies are expected to be established shortly in Kiryat Arba adjacent to Hebron and in settlements north of the Dead Sea. A town council was set up in Elkana in Samaria last week.
The drive to convert the settlements into self-governing townships, subject to Israeli laws, is headed by Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, chairman of the Ministerial Settlement Committee, and Matityahu Drobless, cochairman of the World Zionist Organization’s settlement department. Their aim is the rapid expansion of settlements and enlargement of the Jewish population in order to create “facts” that a Laborled government could not very well reverse should it come into office after the June 30 Knesset elections.
The WZO settlement department announced today that it will spend 150 million Shekels on four new settlements on the West Bank and expand II others in accordance with government policy. According to Drobless, 400 new housing units will be built in the settlements to increase the Jewish population by 4000.
The Military Government says that only State-owned land will be utilized for these purposes. But its seizure of about 1000 acres near the settlement of Ariel has been challenged in the Supreme Court by Arab villagers. Similar challenges expected over other confiscated land may delay the expansion plans until after the elections.