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Government Leaders Differ on Immediate Political Future of West Bank

Sharp differences have developed among members of Premier Golda Meir’s government on the immediate political future of the West Bank. The controversy may come to a head when Police Minister Shlomo Hillel presents a report to Mrs. Meir next month on the political situation on the West Bank. Mr. Hillel the Prime Minister’s representative for political affairs in the occupied Arab territories, has just completed three weeks of talks with West Bank leaders. His report is expected to be ready by the time Mrs. Meir returns from her current visit to the United States. Mean while Mr. Hillel and a number of his cabinet colleagues are divided on the question of autonomy for West Bank Arabs. Some ministers contend that all the talk of “home rule” comes from Jews while the Arabs have expressed no support for such schemes. Paralleling the schism in the government is the division among the Arabs. The West Bankers seem to be fragmented on the issues most vitally effecting them though some spontaneous political activity has been evident since the civil war in Jordan last month.

According to Israeli observers, the strongest political faction to emerge so far is in Hebron where the Mayor, Sheikh Mohammed Ali Jaabari, has urged a study of the situation and coordination with Jordan and the Gaza Strip. In East Jerusalem, a group of about 25 young intellectuals calling themselves the Palestinian National Alignment has proposed asking the United Nations to conduct a referendum in the occupied territories to allow the Arabs to determine their own future. But the group lacks political experience and already appears to be disintegrating because of internal differences. A third faction has emerged in Nablus under the leadership of former Mayor Hamdi Kanaan who has bitterly attacked King Hussein of Jordan. But Mr. Kanaan enjoys little support even in his own town. A group of Nablus dignitaries who have just returned from Cairo have urged the avoidance of local initiatives before Israel withdraws.

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