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