"I'm not going to send the tanks back into Shechem," Netanyahu said, using the Hebrew name for Nablus. "But there are many actions that could be done that aren't being taken now."
Netanyahu's supporters argue that a tough line taken by Netanyahu would force the Palestinians to renegotiate, not to react violently. Others say the United States would not allow him to scrap the peace process.
"Even a Netanyahu victory will not necessarily be a catastrophe," conceded Haaretz columnist Yoel Marcus, a supporter of Peres. "He would be stupid or mad to bring on an immediate break in relations with the U.S. by halting the peace process, taking us back to armed conflict with Palestinian terror, this time very violent."
Netanyahu has promised swift change from the Peres government's course in the settlements, whose expansion in what is regarded as the biblical land of Israel is an essential part of Likud philosophy. He has vowed to continue to expand Jewish settlement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territorial acquisition that helped spark the Palestinian "intifada" in 1987.
About 140,000 Jewish settlers live among 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Asked how he would pay for settlement expansion, Netanyahu said he would transfer funds from the Palestinians and spend it in the settlements. That prompted Finance Minister Avraham Shohat to reply that not a cent of Israeli money goes to Palestinians, only some reimbursement of taxes collected from Palestinian workers.
Peres vowed yesterday to continue the partial freeze on Jewish settlements. His campaign position is that no settlement will be dismantled and that most settlers would remain under Israeli control after the end of negotiations with the Palestinians.
That is of little comfort to Yusef Rimel. He lives with his wife and four children in Halamish, a settlement of red-roofed houses 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Areas now under joint Palestinian-Israeli control come within a half-mile of the settlement. Rimel fears the consequences if those lands become part of a Palestinian state.
"If you start dismantling Israel by giving away lands, you're asking for a war that Israel may not be able to survive," he said. If negotiations give the Palestinians control over the surrounding area, he might leave, Rimel said.
"If it means I have to go through a Palestinian checkpoint and present my identity papers, I strongly question if I could stay here."
Pub Date: 5/23/96