Extremists in Israel fight on

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THERE are a lot of American immigrants in Kefar Tappuah, a centre of Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives), one of the two anti-Arab Jewish groups banned by the Israeli cabinet on Sunday and labelled 'terrorist' organisations. Kahane Chai and its sister body, Kach, have their roots in the United States, and follow the preaching of Meir Kahane, assassinated in New York in 1990.

Both Kahane Chai and Kach supporters revere Baruch Goldstein, the Hebron mosque mass killer, as a martyr. Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, hopes that by outlawing the groups, the Palestine Liberation Organisation might be lured back to the peace negotiations, suspended after the massacre. Yesterday, Israeli and PLO officials met in Tunis but there was no sign of progress.

Until 25 February the Israeli government had never taken seriously the danger of the Kahane militants in the occupied territories. In their stronghold at Kefar Tappuah strange figures - some claiming to be rabbis, dressed in battle-fatigues - give interviews to the press. They spout about their 'victimisation', about the 'new Holocaust' and 'McCarthyism'.

Goldstein, however, showed Mr Rabin that these motley characters were not just cardboard cut-outs, and he has made them subject to an Anti-Terror Ordinance. The government has also 'clarified' an order to soldiers not to shoot Jews even if they are killing Arabs. Now soldiers have been instructed they may shoot at Jews or Arabs, if necessary to protect life.

In theory, powers to act against the outlawed Jewish groups are wide. Members of Kach or Kahane Chai can be imprisoned for up to 20 years. Fund-raising and promoting the groups is punishable with imprisonment. The groups' meeting places can be shut down.

By yesterday seven suspected militants had been detained, and the word in Kefar Tappuah was that the 'big dogs' of the movement - Axelrod, Merzle, Goldberg - had 'gone underground'. Moshe Levinger, who spearheaded the most militant sections of the Hebron settler movement, was arrested for questioning yesterday, although he is not a Kahane follower.

Nevertheless, it is unclear how far the clampdown will stretch. Soldiers were still guarding Kefar Tappuah yesterday. Guards, to protect the settlement from Arabs, were still posted at the gates, outside the school and at the perimeter fence. Many convoys have been assigned to protect all settlers travelling in the occupied territories.

The settlement's arsenal of weapons, provided by the army in case of emergency, is intact and under the supervision of settlers. Most of the extremists are still armed. And most still openly advocate anti- Arab violence. 'The more we are oppressed the more we will take action. If it is the government that is oppressing us we will take action against the government,' said one of them. 'We will fight for our civil rights.'

JERUSALEM - Yitzhak Rabin yesterday signed an agreement to add the religious Shas party to his government coalition, Reuter reports. It gives him the support of 62 of the 120 parliament members, up from 56.