Burg Sees Israel, Egypt Reaching Accord on Autonomy in 6-8 Weeks

Interior Minister Yosef Burg said today that Egypt and Israel could reach an agreement of understanding on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a matter of 6-8 weeks. Burg, who is Israel’s chief negotiator in the autonomy talks, told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee that there were no real obstacles to signing such an agreement.

He said an effort would be made toward that goal when the negotiations are resumed in Cairo next week. According to Burg, the most difficult problem is the composition of the administrative council which would constitute the self-governing authority in the territories under autonomy, and the nature and extent of its powers.

According to Burg, the major difference between Israel and Egypt is that Egypt regards autonomy as a stage toward an independent Palestinian state whereas Israel sees it as an alternative to a Palestinian state. Consequently, he said, the Egyptians want a large legislative body which would elect a smaller executive body. Israel wants the administrative council kept small and functional.

Burg described Israel’s view of autonomy as “sovereignty minus X” for the Palestinians. The negotiations are over the size of that “X”, he said. Most members of the Knesset committee agreed that a memo of understanding should be agreed upon before Israel completes its final withdrawal from Sinai next April.

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