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Settlers Threaten Revolt over Diplomatic Moves

February 4, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The government was faced Wednesday with a revolt by Jewish settlers in the West Bank and dire threats by right-wing politicians against any diplomatic moves that could lead to an exchange of territory for peace.

In the Knesset, Geula Cohen of the ultranationalist Tehiya Party warned there would be “war” over any move by the government to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

She spoke during an emotionally charged debate on a no-confidence motion introduced by Tehiya. The party’s members are disturbed by reports of new diplomatic activity in Washington, Paris and elsewhere toward a peace settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

A shouting match erupted in the Cabinet chamber between Defense Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Yosef Shapira, a National Religious Party militant who is a minister without portfolio.

Shapira burst into a closed session of the Inner Cabinet — of which he is not a member — with a warning from the settlers that they will take matters into their own hands if they do not receive better protection from Arab stone-throwers. The Inner Cabinet consists of five Labor and five Likud ministers and is the government’s top policy-making body.

“Where is the army?” Shapira asked Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was accompanied by senior Israel Defense Force commanders. He said settlers in Samaria and the Etzion group of settlements south of Jerusalem are complaining they can hardly move on the roads without being attacked with rocks. They are threatening to “take action,” Shapira warned.

An irate Rabin replied that the settlers were a “burden” and should take a lesson from the settlers on the northern borders of Israel, who have been targets of terrorist attacks for years and rely on the IDF for protection.

Maj Gen. Amram Mitzna, IDF commander of the central sector, which includes the West Bank, said the army will deal with Arab rioters and also will “handle” Jews who engage in unlawful activities. He said he hoped he would not have to assign military personnel for that purpose.

In the Knesset, Cohen was pressed by Labor and left-wing opposition members to say if she was threatening civil war. They got no clarification from her. But in a radio interview later, she said that by “war” she had meant “the means available in the democratic Knesset and the democratic street.”

It would be “a war against withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. We will not use the ugly methods of our opponents — collaboration with the enemy,” she said, referring to Knesset doves seeking territorial compromise for peace.

Cohen, who had once been a member of Herut and admirer of Premier Menachem Begin, quit the party and broke with Begin over the Camp David accords, which called for the return of Sinai to Egypt.

“Shamir is not Begin, and Judea, Samaria and Gaza are not Sinai,” she said Wednesday, making clear she would not countenance a withdrawal from the West Bank.

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