Israel Still Not Ready to Agree to Allow East Jerusalem Arabs to Vote for Autonomy

Israel is still not prepared to agree to East Jerusalem Arabs voting for autonomy, it was announced here today by Interior Minister Yosef Burg, who is the chief autonomy negotiator for Israel in the talks with Egypt and the United States. He spoke to reporters after a top level consultation at Premier Menachem Begin’s home in preparation for U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s visit to Israel and Egypt this week.

Haig is expected to launch an energetic American effort to revive the autonomy talks and if possible achieve an agreed memorandum of principles before the April Sinai withdrawal date. Burg said the Americans fully knew Israel’s position on this point of East Jerusalemites voting.

Reports out of Washington over the weekend have said that the U.S. would pressure Israel on this point. Arguing that the East Jerusalem Arabs ought to be able to vote for the West Bank-Gaza autonomy council (self-governing authority), Israel holds that to allow this would be to weaken its claim of sovereignty over the city.

Burg noted in this connection that “the U.S., too, holds that Jerusalem is indivisible.” He said the Cabinet Ministers had instructed the experts working group under Interior Ministry Director General Haim Kubersky to prepare a document reformulating Israel’s positions in the autonomy negotiations prior to Haig’s arrival.

Burg indicated there were no major changes in the basic positions. Last night he was quoted by Israel Radio as saying the long held Israeli positions were “good and helpful.” The ministers, he said had discussed the “tactics” of how to proceed in the talks.

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