Israeli Nationalists have staged their strongest protest yet against the Government's refusal to release more land on the occupied West Bank.
Israeli Nationalists have staged their strongest protest yet against the Government's refusal to release more land on the occupied West Bank. Several thousand demonstrators took over more than thirty hill top sties in the disputed area and attempted to establish new settlements. But as fast as new dwellings went up .. Israeli soldiers pulled them down. The troops were ordered in after the Israeli Cabinet had decided it would not expropriate private Arab land to expand Jewish settlements.
SYNOPSIS: Defence Minister Ezer Weizman had been against the expansion. After the government meeting Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor announced the cabinet decision.
For Prime Minister Begin the decision was a compromise. He'd headed off protests from Mr. Weizman and resignation threats from Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan.
The official cabinet decision was to expand seven existing West bank settlements by using only government owned land. For Israeli nationalists claiming to be members of the extremist Gush ??? Bloc" .. the decision didn't go far enough. Several thousand of them protested by occupying some thirty West Bank sites and hastily erecting new settlements. They worked through the night, many cut up tents and pre-fabricated huts ... others simply sat on the ground.
The Gush Emunim believes in the devine right of the Jewish people to settle anywhere in the Biblical land of Israel. But the government took a tough line and ordered in troops to dismantle the settlements. They set up roadblocks to seal off the area as army helicopters pinpoints the squatter sites. As soon as the troops approached a site, the squatters left, but many just moved to another hilltop. Gush Emunim leaders said five thousand people were involved in the demonstration. Military authorities put the number at less than three thousand and said the protest leaders would be put on trial.
The Gush Emunim had wanted to put up 45 new settlements in addition to the 28 that already existed. Protest leaders said the Cabinet decision to allocate 360 acres (144 hectares) of state owned land to expand seven settlements was insufficient.
The demonstration touched off a bitter debate in the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset. The Opposition labor party accused the government of carrying out a policy of creeping annexation in the West Bank. While a government minister claimed the settlements were the best insurance against the possible establishment of a Palestinian state.