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Cabinet Debates West Bank Settlement Move and Anti-settlement Rally

August 13, 1984
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The surreptitious enlargement of the Jewish area in heavily-Arab populated Hebron in the West Bank and a rally of several dozen Israeli opponents of settlements, touched off some mild debate today at the weekly Cabinet session in which the incidents were related to the lumbering pace of negotiations for a new government.

Four caravans of Jews arrived without advance notice last Wednesday night at a hilltop inside Hebron over looking the old Jewish cemetery, and four families of Jews arrived to occupy the caravans. The settlers said their action was made with the approval of Defense Minister Moshe Arens. They said the sudden and secret act was meant to bar the Supreme Court from acting to stop the move.

The caravans were parked on the Tel Rumeida Hill, on a half acre which belonged to the Jewish community of Hebron before th 1929 Arab massacre of Jews.

Interior Minister Yosef Burg, Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai and Trade and Industry Minister Gideon Patt said today they wanted more information about the timing of the action, coming as it did during talks for a national unity government. They said they also wanted to know more about whether the Ministerial Settlement Committee was planning more settlements.


The implied crificism evoked speedy counter-arguments, led by Arens; Science and Development Minister Yuval Neeman, chairman of the Ministerial Settlement Committee; and Minister Without Portfolio Ariel Sharon.

Sharon complained that, in addition to the criticism against the settlements by the opposition, there was also “criticism from within.” The hawkish minister said that publicity about the caravans was “exaggerated” because the caravans arrived in accordance with earlier decisions and placed on the site only after the Justice Ministry ruled that the hilltop site was owned by the State and not by local Arabs.

Several ministers asked why the army permitted an anti-settlement rally by members of the Citizens Rights Movement (CRM) at the Hebron settlement last night. Arens replied that the demonstrators moving along the Jerusalem-Hebron road concealed their rally posters until they were assembled.

The demonstration, which included several dozen CRM members, was held only a few yards from the four parked caravans. Rally speakers questioned the sincerity of leaders who spoke in support of a national unity government and at the same time promoted such a “controversial settlement.” The rally ended without disturbances. The local Jewish settlers even offered the demonstrators cold drinks.

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