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Background Report Movement to Stop Withdrawal from Sinai is Gaining Strength

October 27, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

If proof were needed that the “Stop the Withdrawal in Sinai Movement” is gaining support and becoming more strident in tone, it was provided last week when an estimated 30,000 people, most of them religious-nationalist youngsters, spent the Simchat Torah holiday dancing through the streets of Yamit in symbolic “second Hakafot” to protest the planned evacuation of the region by next April.

Hanan Porat, Tehiya Knesset member, in a fiery speech, deplored the “playing down of the spontaneous joy felt here nationwide at the death of (Egyptian President Anwar) Sadat,” according to a report in Yediot Achronot. Porat was quoted in both Yediot and Maariv as saying that God had dealt “with his enemies as they deserve” in arranging Sadat’s assassination. He recalled the thousands of Israelis killed in the Yom Kippur War which Sadat launched against Israel.

Porat is now living in the Rafah area, as is Geula Cohen of Tehiya and Rabbi Haim Druckman of the National Religious Party. Druckman moved into Yamit with his wife and nine children two weeks ago. All three have said that their presence in the area will strengthen the resolve of the residents and other nationalist elements to resist government orders to evacuate.


In a recent interview Porat said the funding for the extensive activities of the Stop the Withdrawal campaign was derived from private contributions — especially from settlers in Judaea and Samaria — each of whom was expected to donate one thousand Shekels.

The campaign includes organizing bus trips to the Rafah area — each of which ends with lectures from local anti-withdrawal residents and exhortations to the visitors to sign up as members or supporters of the movement. The organization claims to have scores of families ready and waiting for the signal to move to the area — as some 20 families have already done (most of them into abandoned homes in the Moshav of Talmei Yosef).

Ms. Cohen, in a Simchat Torah interview, stated the movement’s objective in unequivocal terms: “Our aim is to stop the withdrawal at least from what is left of Sinai. We ourselves believe that the nation will yet mourn the earlier withdrawal from the west of the peninsula …”


Ms. Cohen and other movement spokesmen cite the death of Sadat as a factor that ought to convince the Israeli public that the peace treaty with Egypt “needs revision.” She also stressed the massive arms flow to Saudi Arabia as a strategic factor of such significance that was not so evident when the Camp David agreements were concluded.

All these, she believes, would justify, in terms of international law, Israel’s demand for “revision” of the treaty. “Only a State determined on national suicide would pursue this (withdrawal) policy (now),” she says.

Ms. Cohen predicts that if the whole of Sinai is returned as scheduled, the Egyptians will immediately embark on a major diplomatic initiative, strongly and widely supported in the international arena, to pressure Israel over Judaea and Samaria. Israel will then be bereft of its main “card” — the strategic chunk of Sinai still in its possession. Moreover, she says, the withdrawal will weaken Israel strategically and morally — and will thus serve as an eventual “enticement to war.”

Says Ms. Cohen: “I believe that non-withdrawal is not only vital — but also possible. If the government doesn’t want it, then the will of the people must force the government to change its stand … If the government tries to use its right to force, we shall use our force of right — and I believe that we can triumph …”

She hints that the movement still hoped that Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, patron of the Gush Emunim West Bank settlements, would finally side with the movement against withdrawal.


High government sources concede that they face an agonizing dilemma. The anti-withdrawal movement is gathering strength and adherents from day to day, yet the majority feeling in the Cabinet is that the government should not force a showdown at this early stage, six months before the April 26 withdrawal deadline. That would only play into the movement’s hands, the sources explain.

Better, then, if there must be a showdown and a use of force, to confine it to the immediate week or two before the withdrawal deadline. The national trauma of withdrawal will be deep enough: there is no point extending — and deepening — it over a period of many months, the sources say.

In addition, the government sources indicate, by April most of the authentic Rafah area residents will have taken their compensation and left, sadly but without physical resistance. Thus the Gush Emunim newcomers will be isolated and seen by the wider public as a small group of Johnny-come-latelies in the Rafah area.

This latter consideration is now under threat, however, because the anti-withdrawal movement has made common cause with dissatisfied Yamit residents still haggling with the government over levels of compensation. These residents are now threatening that they will join the movement, and refuse to leave, unless the government agrees to substantially raise their compensation sums.

The compensation issue is complex: Rafah area farmers get more than Yamit urban shopkeepers, on the grounds that it costs more to start a new farm inland than to open a new shop. The shopkeepers — or some of them — do not accept the justice of the argument. At any rate, the “mutual exploitation” (in the words of one key official) between anti-withdrawal activists and disgruntled Yamit residents is plainly worrying the government here in Jerusalem.

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