Jerusalem (Oct. 15)
The Israeli government, reacting to intimations that it has softened its position on Palestinian autonomy, made it clear that there is no change.
Interior Minister Yosef Burg, Israel’s chief negotiator in the autonomy talks with Egypt and the U.S. told the news media here today that Israel indicated no change in its positions either during Premier Menachem Begin’s meetings with President Reagan in Washington last month or in Cairo last weekend when Begin met with Secretary of State Alexander Haig and other American officials at the funeral of President Anwar Sadat.
Burg, who was with Begin both in Washington and Cairo, spoke in response to a report in The New York Times yesterday that the Israeli Premier had indicated to Americans that Israel was prepared to accept certain proposals put forward last year by Sol Linowitz, President Carter’s special envoy to the autonomy talks.
Burg said that Israel had always favored Linowitz’s suggestion that both sides draft a “memorandum of understanding” on the progress of the autonomy negotiations to date but considered that more negotiations were necessary before agreement could be reached on the contents of the memo randum.
According to the Times story, Begin had promised American representatives attending Sadat’s funeral, including former President Carter, that they would be “surprised” by the accommodations Israel would offer at the autonomy talks which will resume in Tel Aviv Oct.21. The Times said Begin specifically mentioned substantive proposals by Linowitz, made last December.
But Begin’s press spokesman, Uri Porat, said yesterday that although Begin agreed to some of the points suggested by the U.S. last year — and had done so at the time — they included none of the major issues in dispute.
There was never any Israeli agreement on key issues such as control over security and water rights in the occupied territories after autonomy is implemented, Porat said.
He said Israel had accepted three U.S. proposals: that the Palestinians should have one self-governing body instead of two suggested by Egypt; that the number of functions assigned to the local population be enlarged; and that the number of members of the self-governing administrative council would be determined by the number of functions assigned to the council. According to Porat, everything else in the Times report was erroneous.