JERUSALEM (Feb. 2)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir has apparently satisfied his Likud colleagues that he has not wavered from his longstanding position on the administered territories, in face of the new American peace initiative in the Middle East.
Many in the Herut wing of the Likud bloc, which Shamir heads, expressed anger and dismay after Shamir seemed to express support Sunday for the American plan, which envisages some form of autonomy — referred to as ” interim arrangements” — for the territories to take effect “within a few weeks.”
Shamir was quoted as saying the plan was the best way to “protect” Israel’s presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the future of Jewish settlements there.
This was seen by Commerce and Industry Minister Ariel Sharon, Housing Minister David Levy and other Herut hard-liners as a deviation from the party’s position that the only acceptable autonomy was that outlined in the 1978 Camp David accords — as interpreted at the time by the Likud-led government of Premier Menachem Begin.
But Levy, who also holds the rank of deputy premier, told Voice of Israel Radio on Monday that Shamir had clarified his views and that there was no longer “fear or unclarity” with respect to Likud’s stand.
He said the American proposal to introduce a “stepped-up autonomy” would be rejected by Likud, because it amounted to “paving the road to the return of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to foreign rule.”
NO DEVIATION FROM CAMP DAVID
Sources close to Shamir stressed that the premier sticks to his view that negotiations could be based only on Camp David-style autonomy. They said that while he welcomed the renewed American involvement in efforts to reach a settlement, he would not deviate from the Camp David accords.
Despite his conciliatory nod toward Shamir, Levy criticized the premier for not having consulted the Likud ministers before he reacted to the new political developments.
“I don’t want to hear in the media that the prime minister is preparing replies to the American proposals,” the housing minister said.
Levy met earlier with the heads of Jewish settlements in the territories. He assured them that contrary to statements made by Labor ministers, settlement activity has not been suspended.
He said there was no de facto decision to stop settlement and promised that his ministry would strengthen existing settlements.
Leaders of the setters movement held lengthy discussions in recent days with Shamir, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and other key ministers on the security situation in the territories. The talks were prompted by the firebomb attack Sunday night on the car of Dov Kalmanovich, a 32-year-old accountant from Beit-El, who was driving through El-Bireh, near Ramallah.