West Bank Arab Leaders Call Halt to Activities Directed Toward Possible Peace Talks

Arab leaders of the West Bank have called a halt, at least temporarily to activities directed toward possible separate peace talks with Israel, it was reliably learned here today. It was also disclosed for the first time that the Arab leaders had discussed some of their peace plans with British, American and other foreign consular officials in Jerusalem. That disclosure apparently embarrassed the governments involved. Several embassies explained that their consular officials were not trying to pressure or influence anyone but sought merely to find out what kind of plan might be acceptable.

The acting Consul General of Great Britain told Israel Foreign Ministry sources here today that no initiative had been taken by legation officials to propagate a plan discussed by various groups of West Bank Arab leaders to request a United Nations mandate for the West Bank for five years. The British official said he called on the Foreign Ministry at his own initiative after reading press reports of a meeting of Arab notables in Nablus where a British vice consul was said to have explained the plan. According to the acting Consul General, a vice consul attended the Nablus meeting in the course of his normal duties and was asked about a plan of apparently Tunisian origin that had appeared in the London Times. He did not initiate the conversation on the subject nor did he in any way advance or propagate the plan, the British official said, adding that the British Consulate does not engage in political activities among the population of Israeli-occupied territories.

The West Bank Arabs have decided to leave peace efforts, for the time being, to the Arab governments and the Big Powers. They want to see the outcome of President Nasser’s latest visit to Moscow before they move any further on their own, it was reported here. They have also noted that Israel so far has not been willing to commit itself to any plan until peace talks get under way with the Arab states. A number of Israeli Cabinet ministers said in speeches last week that they did not believe the Palestinian Arabs should be Israel’s partners in peace discussions to solve the Arab-Israel conflict because they could not solve problems on a regional scale.

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