Tel Aviv (Aug. 30)
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said this weekend that Premier Menachem Begin’s autonomy plan is the only path to peace and Israel will wait until the idea is accepted by the Palestinians. But a wide cross-section of West Bank Arab leaders virtually unanimously rejected it in weekend radio interviews.
In an examination of the summit talks last week in Alexandria between Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Shamir said: “The summit meeting showed the autonomy plan is not dead. All other options — the various Palestinian ideas, the Jordanian option, etc. — are pure dreams and the only real policy to strive for to achieve peace is the Camp David agreement.”
He said it would give the local Palestinians a chance to elect their own advisory council and help negotiate the future of the West Bank. “It is a great achievement for them,” Shamir said. Adding that if they reject the plan “we will continue as we have done and will wait for them until they are convinced that this is the only way to advance and make progress.”
REACTIONS BY WEST BANK ARABS
But Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij, generally regarded as one of the most moderate of the West Bank leaders, told an interviewer: “We won’t accept it (the autonomy plan and the Camp David accords). There is nothing in it which will induce us to accept it.”
Raymonda Tawil, a journalist and writer from Ramallah who is an outstanding Arab nationalist and frequently briefs foreign correspondents on whom she has great influence, said: “For us, it has no meaning because they (the Israelis, Egyptians and Americans) are taking the decisions and we are the people who should take the decisions …
The Americans and Israelis have failed to find an alternative to the PLO for 14 years. I think it is high time that they draw the lesson and go and talk to the PLO.”
Mustafa Dudin, a large landowner, former Jordanian government minister and now head of the Hebron-area Arab Village League, complained that the autonomy plan is not clear.
“Egypt’s ideas are so different from those of the Israelis, and so it is not clear. I believe that Arabs and Jews should live together and search for peace. It is not a problem of encouraging the Palestinians but of having a clear and sharp policy to attract the Palestinians to it.” Dudin is believed to be one of the West Bank leaders with whom Defense Minister Ariel Sharon is now seeking a dialogue.
Freij is believed to be another, but Freij said “The answer is not with the local mayors. They were elected in 1976 but not as political leaders. None of the mayors and leaders can be described as leaders having any authority to negotiate with any of the parties — Israel, Egypt and America — on political matters concerning the Palestinian people.”
SAYS TIME IS ON SIDE OF PALESTINIANS
Ibrahim Dukak, an eloquent Communist member of the nationalist National Guidance Council, said only an international conference (in which the Soviet Union would presumably take part) can solve the Palestinian problem. “The problem is not to find Palestinians. It is to find real representatives of the Palestinians to share these talks. I very much doubt that they will be able to find any, unless they want to falsify the will of the Palestinians,” he said. “The Arabs have time on their side. That is the difference between the Palestinians and the Zionists. The Palestinians have more patience. Time is on their side.”