Bulldozers began clearing land today for a new civilian settlement about 10 miles west of the town of Nablus, the second such West Bank outpost to be started since the negotiations for Palestinian autonomy began.
The site is about a mile west of the existing Karnei Shomron settlement between Nablus and Tulkarm, and officials said the two outposts eventually will be connected by a sprawling urban center.
Coming in the wake of the still-simmering controversy over the establishment of the Elon Moreh settlement just east of Nablus, the new Karnei Shomron outpost is certain to generate opposition from local Arabs and become an issue when West Bank-Gaza Strip autonomy talks resume next week in Herzylia.
Officials of the World Zionist Organization's land settlement division said, however, that no privately owned Arab land has been expropriated for the new site.
About 30 families are scheduled to move into the new Karnei Shomron settlement in the first stage, with the first residents living in prefabricated concrete houses that were ordered in April. Authorities said the first housing units would be transported to the site within a few days.
Meanwhile, work continued at a fast pace today at Elon Moreh, with two dozen prefabricated houses already in place just 11 days after earthmoving equipment began work on the stony hillstop. The houses had been ear-marked for several other settlements that were to be expanded by the ultranationalist Gush Emunim (Faith Bloc), but were sent to Elon Moreh in an apparent attempt to establish a de facto presence at the site before Wednesday. Israel's High Court then begins hearing an appeal by Arab landowners who claim their property was illegally seized.
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, meanwhile, said that while he opposed the Elon Moreh outpost, he supports every other settlement already approved by the government, and he does not regard Israel's settlement policy as an obstacle to the autonomy negotiations.
"I think that the government will follow a line of policy of intensive settlement of Judea and Samaria [Biblical names for the West Bank] and the Gaza Strip," Dayan said at a luncheon meeting of foreign correspondents.
Dayan said he thought Jewish outposts will be built in the West Bank at a rapid pace "unless something unexpectedly will happen, like a shortage of people . . . or some financial problem of other difficulty." Backers of new settlements frequently complain they are having increasing difficulty finding volunteers to inhabit the new outposts.
When asked how he thought the Elon Moreh issue will affect the autonomy negotiations next week, Dayan said ia is "too premature to speculate" on the impact, but added, "Egypt doesn't like Elon Moreh, but then they don't like 20 other things."
He said he opened the Elon Moreh decision because of the land expropiation involved, but supports settlement in general because it "is the only fully acceptable [means] of living together with Arabs in Judea and Samaria." CAPTION: Picture, A bulldozer begins clearing a road for the second new Jewish settlement on the West Bank this month. UPI; Map, no caption, By Dave Cook-The Washington Post