Likud opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu this week offered his own proposal for extending Palestinian self-rule to the West Bank.
Netanyahu, in a weekend interview with Israel Radio, said he would favor giving Palestinian residents of the West Bank self-rule in all respects except in the areas of security and foreign affairs.
His proposal also called for the formation of a political axis involving Likud, the Palestinians and Jordan.
Netanyahu noted that his plan, which he said was based on the 1978 Camp David Accords, was the only way to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.
He claimed to have discussed the proposal with Palestinian officials who he said had reached the conclusion that Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat could not be relied upon to lead the Palestinian cause.
He refused to name the officials, but said, “They may speak the PLO-line now, but the minute the PLO falls from power, you will hear a different tune.
“Everyone understands that the current situation cannot continue.”
Netanyahu also said that in his view, the Palestinians would accept much less than what the Rabin government is currently offering them.
“The idea is to give self-rule to the Arab residents, while keeping security under Israeli control,” Netanyahu said. His proposal, he added, “can ensure security and allow for gradual advances toward a new reality in the Middle East.”
His plan includes a proposal for sealing off the Gaza Strip with a wire fence and creating a protective minefield to prevent Palestinian laborers from working in Israel.
Netanyahu said he would permit the entry of tens of thousands of foreign workers into Israel to make up for the loss in the labor force.
The Likud leader’s proposal drew a strong reaction from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who said it was not a plan, but “a joke.”
Rabin doubted that any Palestinian leaders would support the proposal.
He added that the Likud leader is proposing keeping the Israel Defense Force in “the cities and towns in Judea and Samaria. If the civil administration he is proposing to the Palestinians is under Israeli control, then that is the situation.
“He should just say he wants to keep things as they are now, with control in the hands of a different people-and that is the source of terrorism,” Rabin said.
Police Minister Moshe Shahal called Netanyahu’s idea the “most superficial Middle East proposal” he had heard. He said that if it were possible to have a no-confidence vote in the opposition, this plan would make him do it.
Netanyahu was also criticized by Likud rival and former Foreign Minister David Levy, who said that Netanyahu had not consulted with his colleagues about the idea.
In response, Netanyahu, who is on a speaking tour in the United States, said his proposal was based on the tenets of the Likud platform.