LONDON (Oct. 28)
Israeli Interior Minister Yosef Burg said last night that he intends to seek a series of meetings with Palestinian Arabs as a result of the “definite progress” made here in the latest round of autonomy discussions with Prime Minister Mustapha Khalil of Egypt and President Carter’s special envoy to the Middle East, Robert Strauss.
Burg, who heads the Israeli negotiating team, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview that while he has had virtually no contacts with Palestinian Arab leaders until now, he would move in that direction.
That move would appear to be the logical sequel to the agreement reached by the three conferees in their two days of talks that ended last night. According to the agreement, announced jointly at a press conference last Friday afternoon, Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip could participate in the process of organizing, conducting and supervising the elections for a self-governing authority in those territories. All three delegations seemed satisfied.
Strauss, who had been pessimistic about the progress of the autonomy talks when he arrived here last week, said that “For the First time, substantive progress has been made” since the negotiations began four months ago. Burg remarked that the progress has been substantial as well as substantive. The Camp David accords call for final agreement on autonomy by next May.
According to Friday’s joint statement, the Palestinians who will participate in the pre-election process will have to be agreed to by all parties, including Israel. They will be required to share their authority with “authorized Israeli civilian personnel” and with other “individuals” agreed to by Israel, Egypt and the U.S.
DENIES ANNEXATION MOVE
A large part of the interview was devoted to comments by Burg on the resignation of Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan last week and the reasons Dayan gave for quitting at this time – basic policy differences with the Likud and National Religious Party members of Premier Menachem Begin’s coaltion government. Burg, a leader of the NRP, took exception to Dayan’s statement on an Israel Radio interview Friday night that he had resigned in protest against a secret commitment by the Begin government to annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip after the Five-year autonomy period. (See related story P.4.)
“Not true,” Burg exclaimed. “No such decision has been taken, although it is the government’s attitude that we have a historic right to Eretz Yisrael. “He also denied Dayan’s charge that the once moderate NRP has become a hard-line extremist party. Burg conceded that in recent years, some NRP elements, notably its youth faction, were very close to the Gush Emunim. “But I, personally, representing the strongest faction in the party, am-middle-of-the-road,” he said, “a little to the right on national questions and a little to the left on social issues.”
He denied Dayan’s complaint that the Cabinet had ignored his proposal that Israel unilaterally dismantle its military government on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and replace it by a civilian authority in the event that the autonomy talks failed. According to Burg, Dayan had never made a formal proposal. “He mentioned it once or twice in the Cabinet but he never made concrete proposals and never elaborated on them.”
Burg said that last week’s ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court that the Gush Emunim settlement of Elon Moreh must be removed from the seized Arab lands it occupies was not discussed during the autonomy talks in London. He said the high court’s decision was a credit to Israel’s democratic and judicial system but stressed that it dealt with a specific issue involving a particular acreage and location “and does not diminish the right of Jews to settle in the whole of Eretz Yisrael.”
He added, “I don’t see in the question of settlement an obstacle to a settlement of the question.” He said the whole idea of autonomy for the territories was to assure the peaceful coexistence of Jews and Arabs west of the Jordan River. “So we’ll have Arabs living in regions predominantly inhabited by Jews and Jews living in areas predominantly inhabited by Arabs. The mere fact of this peaceful coexistence will be an important guarantee against the emergence of a Palestinian state,” Burg said.