TEL AVIV (Sep. 28)
A researcher at one of Israel’s leading think tanks proposed a gradual expansion of responsibility for Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, leading eventually to autonomy for the territory. But he warned against implementing autonomy unilaterally in the near future.
Brig. Gen. (Res.) Arye Shalev, a Senior Fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, presented his views in a 35-page study on unilateral autonomy for the West Bank, published Thursday.
He said an international peace conference on the Middle East is unlikely to materialize now and Israel therefore should work to strengthen the authority of Palestinians in the administered territory and encourage Jordanian influence there at the expense of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
ISRAEL SHOULD WORK WITH JORDAN
Negotiations between Israel and any Arab partner are unlikely at this stage and Israel therefore should work behind the scenes, with Jordanian cooperation, to strengthen the power of local Arab officials so as to pave the way for an eventual political solution, Shalev said.
He suggested among Israel’s other options a policy of prodding West Bank Arabs to take greater responsibility for their own institutions. That, combined with greater authority for local leaders, would lessen friction between Israeli officials and Arab residents, he said.
By strengthening Jordan’s position in the territory, an alternative leadership to the PLO could be created, he said, and the stage would be set for a political solution between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.
In the long term, Shalev said, the Israeli civil administration should be eliminated. But he cautioned that premature implementation of autonomy would benefit the PLO because its supporters would promptly take over the posts vacated by the Israelis.
He suggested a gradual, quiet process of installing local leaders sympathetic to Jordan in official positions, for example, as the mayors of the larger West Bank towns of Hebron, Ramallah and El Bireh. He would also encourage Jordanian involvement in developing a local alternative to the PLO.