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Israel Blasts U.S. Autonomy Role

The members of the Israeli ministerial team’s “working group” for the autonomy talks which met this week for three days with the Egyptian team in Alexandria have expressed bitter criticism of James Leonard, the American envoy to the talks the team, which along with the Egyptian team was established last month to negotiate details of the autonomy plan for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, last night focussed their anger on two key positions taken by Leonard upon instructions from Washington:

That the self-governing authority (administrative council) should have legislative and judicial organs as well as executive, and that the elections to set it up should be held under international supervision.

The first point is particularly important because it goes to the heart of the vexed “source of authority” question. If the self-governing authority is to have the right to legislate that clearly would mean that it is its own source of authority and that the Israeli authority over the West Bank and Gaza Strip would have ceased. This is entirely contrary to the Israeli view. (See related story from Washington).

TANTAMOUNT TO CREATING PALESTINIAN STATE

Israel holds that it will retain a residual authority over these areas even after the autonomy is set up. That would enable it to act against any extra-legal action by the proposed Palestinian administration–such as the proclamation of a Palestinian state. The U.S. positions taken by Leonard are seen in Jerusalem as “tantamount to the creation of a Palestinian state.” On election supervision, Israel’s position is that no international control is required to ensure absolutely free and fair elections.

Another position presented by Leonard which Israel views with bitterness is that East Jerusalem should be included in the ambit of the proposed Palestinian autonomy and its citizens entitled to vote in the election.

‘LAND MINES AHEAD’

Interior Minister Yosef Burg, chairman of the Israeli ministerial committee, in a brief interview yesterday in Jerusalem spoke of “land mines ahead” when the full Israeli and Egyptian committee convenes in Haifa next week. Some Israeli sources said they felt the Egyptian position at the “working groups” meeting in Alexandria was influenced toward greater rigidity by the U.S. role.

Leonard was quoted on Israel TV yesterday as having told the Israeli officials in Alexandria: “I have received a batch of instructions from Washington which are going to shock you….”

This latest bitterness here against U.S. policy comes at a time of strained relations with Washington. The Israeli government is still unhappy over the U.S. determination to use a United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization force to replace the defunct UN Emergency Force in Sinal. Israeli suspicions have been aroused of late by public and private statements by U.S. officials that seemed to indicate that Washington is considering a revision of UN Security Council Resolution 242 to make it more palatable to the Palestine Liberation Organization. In addition, President Carter’s reference to the Palestinians as comparable to American civil rights activists is also expected to further sour relations between Jerusalem and Washington.

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