Controversy is growing in Israel over the future of Jewish settlements on lands which was occupied after the 1967 war.
Controversy is growing in Israel over the future of Jewish settlements on lands which was occupied after the 1967 war. Under the present Egyptian-Israel peace initiative it has been proposed that the territories will eventually come under Arab sovereignty. This suggestion has been met with widespread protests from Jews who have settled in the disputed areas, and has lead an Israeli parliamentary committee to study the legal status of the settlements. In the meantime there is evidence that the Israelis are expanding and developing existing settlements.
SYNOPSIS: This settlement at Yamit in northern Sinai, has been in the forefront of the controversy surrounding the Israeli-Egyptian peace negotiations. The 3,500 Jewish settlers in the surrounding area have been here for several years and have transformed the barren desert into a tomato-producing market garden.
The settlers, who recently voiced their anger at plans to return the area to Egyptian sovereignty, were among those visited by the committee investigating the legal status of such settlement. Members of the committee, the Knesset Foreign Relations and Defence Committee, will discuss the situation with the settlers before reporting back to the Knesset which last week endorsed plans to build four new villages in another occupied zone-on the West Bank. Yamit's residents have been pressing for similar official support.
At Sharm el Sheikh there are more settlements and the area is visited by an increasing number of tourists every year. They come with good reason, for situated on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula, the town has valuable access to the Red Sea. The area is also strategically vital to the Israelis. At Ofira, a new town which guards the gate-way to the Gulf of Aqaba, there are ambitious projects in the pipe-line. The Israeli Government has set aside 57 million dollars for the town's development, and estimates the population will grow to 2,000 by the end of the year.
Additional government development projects are being carried out near the Syrian town of Kuneitra on the Golan Heights. Since the Israelis occupied the area in 1967, there has not been a similar influx of Jewish settlers as there has been in other occupied territory. Recently however, construction work has been stepped up, with the Government improving and expanding Kib???tzes in the region.