Attorney General, Prof. Aharon Barak reports his failed attempts at law enforcement on Gush Emunim settlers on an August evening, 40 years ago
"Re: Settlement attempt on August 2, 1976"
On Monday, August 2, 1976, a large contingent of members of Gush Emunim’s Jericho Settlers Group arrived in the vicinity of the Palestinian city of Jericho, for the express purpose of establishing a “symbolic settlement” near the city. The settlers brought supplies and equipment for a long stay, but they were evacuated by the police and the military in the evening.
The documents presented here revolve around that incident, and what Attorney General Aharon Barak and Prime Minister Rabin learned from it. In a letter to Justice Minister Haim Tzadok, Attorney General Barak recounts how at 7:45 PM, on the day of the operation, he received notification from the officer in charge of the Jericho sector in the IDF of the attempted settlement, and the evacuation. Barak went on to describe what he had done since receiving the news, including the difficulties he had had getting in touch with police commanders, until he found out that the settlers were released without being interrogated, and most of them also without being registered, about two and a half hours later.
The defiant attempt made by the Jericho Settler group to set up a settlement took place even as the affair surrounding the transfer of the Elon Moreh settler group from Sebastia to the Kadum base dragged on. The temporary compromise between the government and the Elon Moreh group failed to produce a decision months after the group had moved into the Kadum abase. The government was at a loss to address Gush Emunim’s defiance and the public support they received.
In a note exchange, appended to AG Barak’s letter, the Minister of Justice and Prime Minister Rabin discussed possible responses to Gush Emunim’s settler activities. Rabin asked the justice minister if it was possible to confiscate the cars the settlers used for their activities. Answering Tzadok’s question, Rabin explained:
According to information in my possession, Gush Emunim is preparing to step up settlement activity. I don’t know if it’s a matter of days or weeks.
Considering that in practical terms, their actions carry no risk, they feel encouraged. I think detention for interrogation and more than that, confiscation of vehicles may deter some of them.
Therefore, prior coordination on these issues is imperative to avoid a situation like we faced two days ago.
Jericho – A Hebrew town
The attempt to settle in the Jericho area on August 2, 1976 was one of a series of defiant actions intended to push government approval for settlement by the Jericho Settlers Group. The group was formed in 1974 with the intent of turning Jericho into an Israeli town. In a booklet the group put together in 1976, they wrote about Jericho’s importance and advantages and detailed their plans for the town and its vicinity.
“Ever since Joshua son of Nun conquered Jericho some three thousand years ago, the city has been a key point for the Jewish People.
Jews lived in the city for generations, and even when they were expelled, they returned and settled there. Jericho had known golden ages in its day, and peaked during Maccabee and Herodian rule […] In this age of the revival of the Independent State of Israel, and the fulfilment of the vision of generations, we return to the city and attempt to realize an old dream.
We attempt to incorporate this dream into the country’s current reality, to establish a Hebrew city that fulfills its potential and to integrate it into the future aspiration for a peaceful Middle East.”
"To the AG's great regret"
Three months before the Jericho settlement attempt, Minister Yisrael Galili held a phone conversation with Attorney General Aharon Barak documented a phone conversation with AG Barak regarding law enforcement on unauthorized settlement attempts. Galili’s record of the conversation highlighted the AG’s limited enthusiasm of his duties in this area:
The Attorney General responded to Galili’s question: “actual settlement attempts in the Territories, unauthorized by the government, are violations of the law and justify legal proceedings. This is at the sole discretion of the Attorney General (to the AG’s great regret).”