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Pressure from Washington May Have Changed Mrs. Meir’s Mind on Land Purchases Issue

Premier Golda Meir may have been persuaded by foreign pressure–chiefly from the United States and Britain–to alter her position on Israeli land purchases in the administered territories from lukewarm support to firm opposition to any change in the status quo, it was indicated today.

Prior to yesterday’s Cabinet decision upholding the ban on Jewish land purchases from Arabs in the territories, Mrs. Meir was reportedly prepared to accept a compromise offered by Justice Minister Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro. It was learned, however, that Washington had expressed some misgivings over the issue and had transmitted its feelings to Jerusalem. World-wide press and other news media reaction was strongly unfavorable.

Shapiro’s compromise would have permitted Israelis to buy Arab land under government supervision. The Justice Minister, appearing on a radio interview last night, said Premier Meir withdrew her support for his proposal at the last minute. He refused to speculate as to whether pressure from abroad prompted her change of mind. “You’d better ask her.” he told the interviewer.

The Cabinet’s decision defused tension in the administered territories where the issue aroused controversy and pushed land prices to all-time highs. But controversy was undiminished in Israel and may have been increased. The Gahal opposition faction announced today that it would introduce a no confidence motion in the Knesset tomorrow over the government’s decision. Gahal chairman Menachem Beigin likened the decision, to the 1939 British White Paper that restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine.

Mrs. Meir acted to dampen the mounting controversy when she ordered two of her Cabinet ministers to cancel a television appearance scheduled for this evening. Transport Minister Shimon Peres (Labor)and Health Minister Victor Shemtov(Mapam) had been invited to appear on a TV panel discussion of the land purchase issue. Peres favors free land purchases by Jews while Shemtov is opposed. Both had informed the Israel Broadcasting Authority that their appearance was subject to Cabinet approval. They notified the TV. officials today that they had been asked not to appear, presumably by Mrs. Meir.

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