Village Leagues Challenge Israel to Negotiate with Them on Future of West Bank

The Village Leagues on the West Bank, organized and supported by Israel to counter Palestine Liberation Organization influence, are now challenging the government for direct negotiations with them on the future of the territory.

That call was applauded by some 2,000 Palestinians assembled at Hussein High School in Hebron Friday to hear Mustapha Dudein and other Leagues leaders declare “Yes to peace.” The meeting was the largest in a series of similar gatherings organized jointly by the Village Leagues and the Israeli civil administration. Dudein told the rally, “We declare that we firmly reject terror, recognize the State of Israel as our neighbor and demand mutual recognition between the Arab states and Israel.”

Although no other Palestinian group is on record with similar positive statements, the Israelis who have armed and financed the Leagues may be having doubts as to whether they are the right negotiating partners at this stage. There is no indication that Dudein shares the Begin government’s view of autonomy for the Palestinians. In fact, he is on record in support of President Reagan’s September I Middle East initiative which calls for a West Bank under Palestinian control in association with Jordan and an immediate freeze of Israeli settlement activities in the territory. The government flatly rejected the Reagan proposals.

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