Cabinet Appears Leaning Toward Sharon’s West Bank, Gaza Plan

The Cabinet appeared favorable today toward Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to reorganize the administration of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the emphasis on local civilian government. But a formal vote of approval was postponed until the Cabinet convenes again next Sunday.

Premier Menachem Begin strongly supports Sharon’s plan, and according to Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor, the “trend” is clearly toward approval. All ministers who discussed the plan today backed it, Naor said. Sharon proposes that the army limit itself to defense and security functions while the civilian administration would be placed in the hands of civilians, including as many Palestinians as possible at the highest levels of administration.

Begin said Sharon has his full backing and observed that the army’s job should be to defend and protect the country, not to govern. A key purpose of the plan is to improve the atmosphere in the occupied territories during the autonomy talks between Israel, Egypt and the U.S. which were resumed in Cairo last week after a hiatus of 18 months. Sharon explained his plan in Cairo. He said the reorganization would be a tangible contribution toward “confidence-building” in the territories.

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