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Israel and Jordan Collaborating Unofficially to Eliminate PLO Influence in the West Bank

Israel and Jordan are collaborating unofficially in a policy to eliminate PLO influence in the West Bank which has already drastically reduced terrorist activity in the territory, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin disclosed in an interview published in Maariv Monday.

He said the appointment of local Arab leaders to serve as mayors of three of the West Bank’s largest towns was part of that policy and in fact was undertaken at Jordan’s initiative. It was announced Sunday that Abdel Majid E-Zir, Halil Mussa Halil and Hassan A-Tawil have been named the mayors of Hebron, Ramallah and E1 Bireh respectively, replacing the Israel Defense Force officers who previously governed the towns.

Rabin said the three appointees were tacitly approved by Jordan and agreed to by Israel after it was ascertained that they were acceptable to the local population and had no connections with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

This step is part of the ongoing war against terrorism and strengthening of moderate elements, Rabin said. He reported that King Hussein of Jordan has encouraged moderate elements in the territory and poured money into circles favorable to his Hashemite regime.

TERRORIST ATTACKS HAVE DECLINED

Rabin said that Israel was prepared for an upsurge of terrorism in 1984 when Hussein permitted the opening of PLO offices in Amman. But Jordan changed its policy sharply after Hussein broke with PLO chief Yasir Arafat last February.

The PLO offices were closed and PLO activists were detained or expelled from Jordan, Rabin said. The new attitude and policies of both Jordan and Israel has resulted in a significant reduction of terrorist attacks.

Since February, terrorist activity in the West Bank fell by 50 percent and there has been a 70 percent drop in the number of casualties attributable to terrorist acts, Rabin said, compared to the same period last year.

NO UNILATERAL IMPLEMENTATION OF AUTONOMY

Meanwhile, Gen. Ephraim Sneh, head of the civil administration in the West Bank, stressed in a radio interview Sunday night that the appointment of Arab mayors should not be construed as a beginning of the unilateral implementation of autonomy by Israel.

“By no means, no. There is no connection to any kind of (autonomy) plan,” Sneh said. “On the other hand,” he added, “this is a continuation of the policy we have followed for a long time: that control of the local municipalities which were headed by Israeli officers should be returned to the local residents.”

Sneh pointed out that autonomy was an overall regional concept, not a local municipal one. “There is a basic and substantive difference between the two things,” he said.

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