Settlers Stage Protest, But Some Acknowledge Evacuation Inevitable With AM-Israel-Palestinians
ALLENBY BRIDGE, Occupied West Bank (AP) _ Eitan Rahimpur spoke confidently Monday about the future of his Jewish settlement - as long as the TV cameras were rolling.
But when the cameras were turned off, the herb grower admitted time was running short.
″There isn’t much hope, and we know this,″ Rahimpur said of the Israel- PLO autonomy talks that resumed Monday in Egypt. ″In the end, there won’t be a choice, and we’ll leave.″
That resignation wasn’t apparent earlier as Rahimpur and a few dozen other settlers blocked traffic at this border crossing to protest the talks.
″We are not budging from here,″ members of the group chanted, a forest of Israeli flags fluttering over their heads as four Palestinian buses headed for Jordan waited by the roadside.
The Israel-PLO agreement is certain to leave the settlers at Naama, a communal farm just 2.5 miles north of the Palestinian town of Jericho, inside the PLO-run autonomy enclave. Jericho is the future seat of Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat’s administration.
But Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin doesn’t want to dismantle any of the 144 settlements now. He wants to avoid setting precedents that would weaken Israeli bargaining positions once negotiations on the final status of the occupied lands begin in mid-1996.
On Monday, Jewish settler leaders called off a so-called ″operation doubling,″ where they intended to set up 144 more settlements across the occupied territories. The settlement project, no more than a tent and generator, was halted due to ″problems,″ a news release said.
Israel television said the operation was stopped because it did not garner the public support settlers had hoped it would.
Naama settlers say they are scared to use roads patrolled by a Palestinian police force to be established under autonomy.
Evelyn Razon, a tomato grower who arrived nine years ago, said she didn’t want to endanger her children by having them travel through the autonomy enclave to get to school.
″There will be Palestinian policemen there with Kalashnikovs. What if one of them goes crazy?″ she said.
Razon joined Monday’s protest in hopes she can persuade the government to at least keep Al Auja, a Palestinian village just north of Naama.
If it doesn’t, she said, ″Let them evacuate us, compensate us and we will move.″