Israel plans crackdown on settlers

February 28, 1994|By Doug Struck | Doug Struck,Jerusalem Bureau of The Sun M. K. Guzda and Dan Fesperman in Jerusalem contributed to this article.

JERUSALEM -- As the mass killer of Muslim worshipers was buried yesterday with a rabbi's racist praise, Israel moved to clamp down on Jewish extremists.

The government announced that it will arrest, disarm and restrict the movement of some of the most extreme right-wing Jewish settlers. And it promised to release about 800 Palestinian prisoners.

But even as a unanimous Cabinet approved the measures, a eulogizer at the funeral ceremony for Baruch Goldstein told several hundred persons gathered there that the killer had offered "a cure" for a sick Israel.

"One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail," said Rabbi Yaacov Perrin, according to Reuters. Mourners shouted "Slaughter the journalists" and stoned reporters trying to cover the ceremony.

The body of Goldstein, a Brooklyn-born doctor, was taken for burial at the right-wing Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, where he lived. About 1,000 settlers joined the ceremony there, where he was again praised as a "holy man, a hero."

He was put in a temporary grave in the Kiryat Arba park, but his family hopes to rebury him in the Hebron cemetery when tensions cool.

The Israeli Cabinet voted to set up a special commission to investigate the massacre Friday morning in the mosque at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Goldstein opened fire, killing 39 worshipers, according to the government. Palestinians say Israeli troops may have killed 15 more.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said last night: "He did it on his own. But I'm also ashamed about others that came out publicly and supported his act. I believe they represent a very small number of the people of Israel."

Mr. Rabin said Goldstein "joined with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the purpose to kill the peace negotiations."

The rioting that has followed Friday's massacre continued yesterday. At least three more Arabs were killed, and Israeli troops opened fire on demonstrators throughout the occupied territories, wounding more than 60.

In Tunis, Tunisia, the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization met last night to consider whether to return to peace talks with Israel. In the occupied territories, numerous Palestinian groups -- including those associated with the PLO's mainstream Fatah -- published demands to suspend the peace negotiations.

Syria, Jordan and Lebanon recalled their peace negotiators from Washington.

A Clinton administration official told the Reuters news service that the three Arab delegations "wanted things to cool down a bit." He said there was no suggestion that the talks were being permanently broken off.

The Israeli Cabinet moves are "woefully inadequate," Nabil Shaath, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said in interviews from Tunis. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat described them as "shallow and hollow."

The Israeli Cabinet approved measures "against radical elements" among the settlers. It said it would disarm some individuals and issue restraining orders keeping some settlers out of areas of the territories.

It ordered the administrative detention -- for three months without trial -- of five of the settlers, and said it would investigate outlawing the two most extreme settler groups: Kach and Kahane Chai.

Observers said the measures might apply only to a few dozen settlers. But it was a significant departure from Israeli policy. Until now, Jews in the occupied territories have been exempt from the daily regimen of curfews, arrests and restrictions inflicted upon Arabs.

It remains to be seen how vigorously Israel carries out those steps. Two of the five settlers named as subject to "administrative detention" were interviewed on Israeli television in Hebron, plainly visible to the police who were supposed to be searching to arrest them.

One resident of Kiryat Arba, David Ramati, said last night that the government's moves are "only public relations witch-hunting. . . It is Jewish self-hate more than anything else. Nobody can hate a Jew like another Jew."

Eliachim Haetzni, a leader of Kiryat Arba and former member of the Israeli parliament, said he could support the government's actions if they do not go too far. "If they use this as a weapon to try to uproot settlements, then it will be another matter."

Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who first founded the settlement, said a move to disarm settlers will leave them vulnerable. "Who will protect them if you disarm them? [These] people live next to Arabs," he said.

In Jerusalem, the army offered the first official version of the events of Friday's massacre. Maj. Gen. Danny Yaton acknowledged that four of the nine soldiers assigned to guard the Tomb of the Patriarchs, which is shared by Muslims and Jews, had not arrived at their posts when the shooting occurred about 5:30 a.m.

"Even if the other four would have been there, it was almost impossible to block any intention of a lunatic, a murderer," General Yaton said.

He said Goldstein entered the tomb dressed in his army reserve captain's uniform and carrying an Israeli Galil weapon.

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