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Begin: Setlements Will Continue but Not Under the Dictates of the Gush

January 5, 1979
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Premier Menachem Begin appeared to follow a middle line between moderates and militants in his own Likud faction on the volatile issue of settlements on the West Bank. That was the subject of a four-hour meeting of the Liked Knesset bloc in the Prime Minister’s office today. It was described as “stormy” and “dramatic” with right-wingers and moderates hurling invective at each other. Begin reportedly stayed out of the fray, but observed in summing up that the debate did “not add prestige” to Likud.

The Premier vigorously defended his settlement policies, vowing that the government will continue large-scale settlement programs in the occupied territories, but at time and in places of its choosing and would not be dictated to by Gush Emunim zealots. The debate coincided with a resurgence of Gush attempts to establish unauthorized settlements on the West Bank, all of them aborted so far by the army acting on government orders. But the Gush appear to have strong support within Likud and its coalition partner, the Notional Religious Party.

The settlement issue has come to a head since the expiration on Dec. 17 of the three-month period for peace treaty negotiations with Egypt agreed to at Camp David. Israel agreed to at Camp David. Israel agreed to freeze new settlements–reserving the right to “thicken” existing ones–while negotiations were in progress. Begin insists that the pledge was for three months only President Carter and the Egyptians maintain that it was to last for the entire period of negotiations for Palestinian self-rule on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

That dispute has not been resolved. But while Israel claims the right to resume settlement activity, it has not done so yet. Hardliners in the Likud Knesset faction and in the Cabinet are urging Begin that it is time to undertake a more energetic settlement program.


The most vociferous advocates of unlimited settlements at today’s meeting were Herut diehards Geula Cohen and Moshe Shamir. They were joined by Moshe Arens, chairman of the powerful Knesset Foreign Affairs, and Security Committee and Yigael Hurwitz who resigned from the Cabinet last fall to protest the Camp David agreements. Arens, arising force In Herut circles, said large-scale settlement was impossible without the appropriation

But Likud faction boss Haim Kaufman denounced the Gush and urged the government not to be “led along” by them. Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, who attended the Meeting, also reportedly spoke in favor at moderation. Other Cabinet members present were Health Minister Eliezer Shostak and Minister-Without -Portfolio Moshe Nissim.

Begin for his part, stressed that the government was carrying out its 1977 election platform promises with respect to settlements We have opened Samaria to Jewish settlement, “he declared noting that that area had been “ideologically closed ” by-his Labor Party predecessors.


Shortly after the meeting ended, clashes erupted on the West Bank where Gush militants blocked the Noblus- Tulkarem rood to protest the frustration of their settlement plans by the army Some 20 vehicles, were parked across the highway Israel Radio reported that fist-fights broke but between Gush members and irate motorists. Troops moved in of nightfall. Several Gush were arrested and others were given traffic tickets. Meanwhile, a group of 25 Gush families remained camped at a roadblock where troops have prevented their advance toward on unauthorized settlement site near Noblus since Sunday.

Orders to remove them were reversed by Begin Tuesday after Education Minister Zevulun Hammer of the NRP intervened on behalf of the Gush Hammer, a Gush Sympathizer, visited the Squatters this afternoon. They have had other visitors, too, from the ranks of Likud and Labor Party militants who support the Greater Israel concept.

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