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Recriminations in Cabinet over Elections on the West Bank

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Israel’s top ministers are locked in a bitter battle of recriminations over last month’s elections on the West Bank which resulted in a pronounced shift towards younger and more radical, nationalist-oriented mayors and town councils. Defense Minister Shimon Peres has come under sharp attack from Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, to a lesser extent from Premier Yitzhak Rabin, and also from other ministers who all assert that his pre-election forecast was misinformed and misleading.

Peres contends that his forecast was basically correct, that other assessments supported his and that in any event Israel could hardly have put off the elections, having announced they would be held, without incurring tremendous damage to its image.

Sources close to Allon charge Peres with having effectively sabotaged the idea of “self-rule” for the West Bank, a scheme which called for the gradual evolution of a moderate indigenous leadership in which key administrative functions would be vested. The sources say Peres ruined the chances for this by trumpeting the scheme in a public speech in Belt Jallah a West Bank town, last summer.

The “self-rule” issue was a focus of the West Bank election campaign, with the nationalist candidates fighting hotly against it. They claimed it meant a measure of acceptance of the Israeli conquest. Peres’ aides argue in reply that Allon was among the most ardent advocates of the “self-rule” idea and that he, too, made public statements in newspaper interviews backing the self-rule thesis.

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