JERUSALEM (Jun. 24)
Defense Minister Ezer Weizman resigned with the approval of the Cabinet today, from the six-man Israeli ministerial delegation negotiating with Egypt and the U.S. on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Weizman, who has been at odds with Premier Menachem Begin over the government’s settlement policy and other issues, said he warned to leave the negotiating team because he felt it was too large.
His formal request to be relieved of that duty was presented to the Cabinet by Begin and approved without rancor. The atmosphere at today’s session was said to be tree of the tensions between ministers that characterized last week’s Cabinet meeting.
Earlier, Weizman and Begin conferred privately. No details of their conversation were disclosed but the prime Minister’s Office issued a statement later saying that Begin did not ask the Defense Minister to carry out the government’s decisions because he has been doing that as a matter of course. It is understood that Weizman reiterated his opposition to the controversial Gush Emunim settlement of Alon Moreh near Nablus and also complained that the autonomy committee did not function efficiently. He did not, however, resign From the government as some rumors predicted he would.
Weizman reportedly stressed that he would continue to carry out government decisions even if he disagreed with them. He cited as proof the assistance the army rendered the Alon Moreh settlers as soon as the government approved the settlement.
Interior Minister Yosef Burg, chairman of the autonomy committee, told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that he did not believe Weizman’s departure would have much effect on the delegation’s tasks. “If there are questions of security and defense, Ezer Weizman promised he would participate,” Burg said.