JERUSALEM (May. 21)
The Cabinet today approved a controversial autonomy plan endorsed last week by a majority of the ll-member ministerial autonomy committee headed by Premier Menachem Begin. But it decided at the same time not to submit the document to Egypt as Israel’s formal position when the negotiations on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip begin at Beersheba this Friday. The plan will, for the time being, serve as “guidelines” for the Israeli negotiating team.
By doing this, observers said, the Cabinet deferred to the view strongly stated by Defense Minister Ezer Weizman last week that the autonomy plan was too hardline and too detailed to serve even as an opening position. That view was shared to some extent by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin. The plan that emerged from the Cabinet today consisted of 20 points instead of the original 22 submitted by Begin. But although there was some stylistic editing, the substance of the plan remained unaltered.
Some of the points were adopted unanimously and others by a majority. Cabinet Secretary Arye Noor disclosed that two of the points were adopted by votes of ll-4. Other sources identified the negative votes as those of Weizman, Dayan, Yadin and Minister of Social Betterment Yisrael Katz. The substance of these points was not disclosed but they are believed to be Israel’s demand to retain control over all publicly owned and uncultivated land on the West Bank and its declared intention to claim sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the end of the five-year transition period.
Both Weizman and Dayan had asked to be excused from the six-man ministerial team, headed by Interior Minister Yosef Burg, that will conduct the negotiations with the Egyptians. Begin refused on grounds that their positions made their participation essential. The Cabinet decided, however, that the entire six-man team need not be present at all of the negotialing sessions. This allows Weizman and Dayan the option of absenting themselves when the negotiations touch on points in the autonomy plan which they oppose.
The other members of the negotiating team are Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir, Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, and Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Nissim. Following approval of the autonomy plan, the Cabinet dissolved the ministerial autonomy committee inasmuch as it has completed its task of drafting the program.