New Controversy Brewing over Proposal to Annex Golan Heights

A major new controversy is building up in the Knesset with possible severe repercussions abroad over a proposal to annex the Golan Heights. The initiative for a law that would declare Israel’s sovereignty, administration and jurisdiction in that territory is being pressed by Geula Cohen of the ultranationalist Tehiya faction.

It was Cohen who introduced the Jerusalem Law passed by the Knesset July 30. It resulted in widespread condemnation of Israel abroad, a second suspension of the autonomy talks by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and the eventual departure from Jerusalem of the 13 foreign embassies located there. Yesterday, Cohen presented a Golan Law for the Knesset agenda, getting ahead of activists from other parties who favor a similar proposal.

The prospects for such a bill in the Knesset are uncertain. Earlier this year, more than 70 MKs of all the major parties signed a manifesto declaring the Golan Heights, seized from Syria in the Six-Day War, to be an inseparable part of Israel. However, chastened by the adverse world reaction to the Jerusalem Law, many MKs, including many who signed the manifesto, are, not anxious to support a Golan Law at this time.

Avraham Sharir, chairman of the Likud Knesset faction and a leader of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, declared today that he was opposed to the bill. He spoke to reporters after a meeting, at his request, with Premier Menachem Begin. He insisted that he had not discussed the Cohen bill with Begin. Questioned about the government’s stand on the measure, Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor replied that. “It is the Knesset, not the government which passes laws.”

INTERNATIONAL OUTCRY EXPECTED

That observation echoed the statements by government spokesmen before the Jerusalem Law was passed to the effect that the government would not interfere in the legislative process. Same observers here believe that ultimately the government will interfere in this case. The international outcry at a Golan annexation law would be overwhelming because such a low would mean to effect, Israel’s repudiation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

Begin so far has refrained from public comment on the Golan Law initiative. Meanwhile, the political committee of the Labor Party resolved today that Labor MKs would absent themselves from the Knesset if and when the Golon Law comes up for a vote. The decision contradicted earlier assertions by party spokesmen that Labor would oppose such a law at this time.

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