Rift Between Labor and Likud over Future of Administered Territories

The deep division between the partners in the Labor-Likud unity coalition government over the future of the administered territories was emphasized at a Haifa University symposium at which American diplomats also expressed their views.

The closing session Wednesday was addressed by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The topic was a third state between Israel and Jordan. Rabin-who stressed that he was advancing his own opinions which he admitted had little chance of acceptance by the present coalition warned that it would be a major mistake to attempt to impose Israeli sovereignty over the territories.

It would block the hope for peace and create a bi-national state with a permanent Palestinian problem which would destroy Israel’s character as a democratic Jewish State, he said.

Those arguments were dismissed by Eliahu Ben-Elissar of Herut and Yehuda Ben-Meir of the National Religious Party who insisted on full Jewish sovereignty over the entire West Bank.

But Yitzhak Unna, former Israeli Ambassador to South Africa, warned that Israel, by remaining in the administered territories, was bringing upon its society many of the problems of which South Africa is trying to rid itself.

Harold Saunders, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, a participant in the symposium, said the only way to test the positions of the Palestine Liberation Organization was to negotiate with it. “Both you (Israelis) and we have talked to them when we needed to,” he said. He stressed that the U.S. had no difficulty talking about self-determination for the Palestinians, even though it is hedged by realities on the ground. Saunders said an eventual solution would have to involve elements of confederation, with political expression for the Palestinians.

Rabin proposed an interim solution under an umbrella of cooperation between Israel, Jordan and moderate Palestinians, who would share responsibility for the territories. He warned that attempts to achieve an ultimate solution for the complex problem of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would only result in stalemate, create new tensions, possible war or an imposed settlement. There are no shortcuts to advance the peace process, he said.

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