Peres Suggests Self-administration for Arabs on the West Bank

Defense Minister Shimon Peres suggested for the first time publicly yesterday that Arabs should assume self-administration on the West Bank under the local Arab leadership. He made that proposal during a visit to the city council of Beit Jalla, an Arab town south of Jerusalem.

“There are sufficient decent and sensible men in Judaea and Samaria who can administer their own matters.” Peres declared. He said that the Arab summit conference at Rabat which eliminated Jordan as the spokesman for West Bank Arabs and the unacceptability of the terrorist organizations had created a vacuum which should be filled by self-administration.

Peres’ ideas are apparently shared by Foreign Minister Yigal Allon who was reported today to be preparing to make a formal proposal to the Cabinet soon for the immediate transfer of the civil administration on the West Bank and the Gaza strip to the hands of the local residents.

Peres initiated the concept of administrative autonomy about six months ago in private talks with West Bank leaders. None of them was prepared to assume the responsibility at the time. One Arab notable in Jerusalem told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency recently that “In the past we thought some form of co-existence with the Jews was possible but now we don’t believe so any more.” The spokesman, who was one of the Arab leaders approached by Peres, accused Israel of responsibility for deteriorating relations with West Bankers by expropriating land for Jewish settlement.

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