JERUSALEM (Aug. 29)
The Cabinet flatly rejected today suggestions attributed to the Reagan Administration supporting the idea of a demilitarized independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Cabinet acted after hearing a report on the talks by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon with Administration officials in Washington. According to the report, one of the ideas suggested to Sharon was the proposal for such a Palestinian state.
Observers said the report seemed to confirm Israeli fears that the Reagan Administration was considering new ways to break the impasse over the autonomy talks called for in the Camp David accords. It appeared that the Reagan Administration apparently has not yet formalized specific ideas to get the stalled autonomy talks resumed but the understanding here is that the wind is blowing in a direction “not in accordance with the Camp David accords.”
Sharon reportedly was informed that the Reagan Administration hoped to use the Israeli success in Israel’s “Peace for Galilee” operation in Lebanon to convince Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition that Israel was militarily powerful enough to deal with any problems a Palestinian state might pose.
But the consensus at the Cabinet session today was that not even a demilitarized Palestinian state was a subject for negotiations. As one minister put it, “How long would that state remain demilitarized?”
SEE HINT BY REAGAN ADMINISTRATION
Sharon reported that Secretary of State George Shultz, with whom he met last Friday, reiterated the United States commitment to Israel’s security but reportedly gave “wide ranging interpretations” to the Camp David accords.
When Sharon repeated to Shultz Israel’s opposition to a Palestinian state, Shultz reportedly replied that the United States, too, opposed the creation of “an armed and dangerous state.” That comment by Shultz was understood here as a hint that the Reagan Administration was moving toward acceptance of on independent demilitarized Palestinian state.
Shultz reportedly spoke of the need to make an effort to induce Jordan to join in the Mideast peace talks, as an Arab country “which should have a vital role in the Camp David process.” Shultz was understood to have said he felt bringing Jordan into the talks was still possible. This remark, too, was interpreted in Jerusalem as a hint of a possible United States effort to bring new partners into the peace process, presumably on Israel’s behalf.
Premier Menachem Begin said that if the Americans, or Egypt, for that matter, sought to introduce basic changes in the Camp David accords, Israel would consider itself free of its obligations under those accords. This was considered by observers as a hint that Israel would no longer regard itself as limited in acting to annex the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Begin told the Cabinet meeting that the Egyptians were trying to bring into the autonomy negotiations a document which had been rejected by then President Carter at the folks at Camp David from which the Camp David accords emerged. It was generally agreed in Jerusalem that Israel would not lose out if the autonomy talks were adjourned indefinitely, as the Egyptians have threatened.