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S P E C I A L Struggle for Peace

Netanyahu delays international trip over settler crisis

September 16, 1997
Web posted at: 5:16 p.m. EDT (2116 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday delayed a week-long international trip because of the latest settler crisis in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders accused the Netanyahu government of involvement and appealed for international support.

The crisis began when Jewish settlers took over an old Arab house in Arab east Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud neighborhood Sunday. The house had been bought by the Jewish-American millionaire Irving Moscowitz, who wants to build 70 Jewish homes in the area.

Israeli police wrangle with Palestinians
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Netanyahu said Monday that he opposed the takeover, but that he could not interfere with the settlers' right to enter property they said they owned.

Palestinians warned that the move by the settlers could spark renewed bloodshed and demanded that the families be evicted.

"The Palestinian Authority officially holds the Israeli government responsible for any development that will take place if the settlers are not evicted," said Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Erekat said an appeal had been sent to the international community, including the United States and the European Union, over the settler takeover.

The takeover came shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, while on a visit to the region, had called on the Israeli government to abstain from creating new settlement or Jewish housing flashpoints, since this would not be conducive to creating a climate allowing the resumption of Middle East peace talks.

Palestinians who complained about the settler move in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood were given rough treatment by Israeli police Monday.

Ratib Hamed, who owned a small bus company, told CNN that Jewish settlers wanted his building. So, he said, they bulldozed his gate and took over his office.

"I can't do anything because they have the protection from the government. They have everything, machines, they have the guns -- I don't have anything," he said. icon (94K/8 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

A settler spokeswoman showed no sympathy. "We are the landlords of the country and we have the police and we have the army. If they will be quiet everything will be okay," Klila Harnoy told CNN.

"Wherever you go there are police, so until the Arabs are good boys and stop killing us, we'll need the police," Harnoy said. icon (119K/10 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

There were also signs of other kinds of intimidation, as doors in the neighborhood showed Jewish stars of David painted on Arab doors.

There were fears that Palestinian anger might boil over in light of the settler issue, but privately, Palestinians in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood told CNN they were waiting to see if the Israeli government would evict the settlers or let them stay.

Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.

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