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Cabinet Decides to ‘equalize’ Services for West Bank, Gaza Residents; Stresses This is Not a Step to

August 15, 1977
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The Cabinet today announced a new policy of “equalization of services ” for inhabitants of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but stressed that this did not mean a step towards their annexation or a change in their legal status.

The aim is to provide the West Bankers and Gazans with the same level of government services, including health and welfare, as that provided for the citizens of Israel proper. The Cabinet Defense Committee has been charged with the detailed implementation of the new policy.

While emphasizing that the decision is “humanitarian, not political,” Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor noted that the parties comprising Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition are pledged to support the total integration of the West Bank and Gaza into Israel “when the time is right”. Begin has indicated that this will not be undertaken as long as diplomatic negotiations with the Arabs are still a possibility. Naor said it was wrong to speak of “annexation” because “it is impossible for Israel to annex (these areas) since you cannot annex what belongs to you”.

One concrete example of the effect of today’s decision, Naor said, would be that the pace of hospital building in the West Bank and Gaza would be brought into line with that of Israel proper. Similarly, child labor, now tolerated in the West Bank and Gaza, would be forbidden. Naor could not come up with other examples, explaining that it would all become clearer once the Defense Committee had worked out the specifics. Nor could he say how much the “equalization” would cost the Israeli taxpayer.


The West Bankers and Gazans would not be asked to pay for the improved services, he said, because their relatively low tax rates were set by Jordanian and Egyptian law, respectively, and the government was avoiding any change in the legal situation.

For the same reason, the government would not be able to apply Israel’s free and compulsory schooling system on the two areas, so the gap in educational facilities would remain for the present. Asked specifically if the new policy was to be seen as a step towards eventual annexation, Naor said that would be “interpretation”. He did not, however, discourage such interpretation.

Other coalition sources confirmed that the new policy should be viewed against the background of the Begin government’s avowed determination to keep the West Bank and Gaza under Israeli rule in any eventual settlement. “That is the overall purpose, “one coalition Knesseter said. “We are seeking out ways of improving our coexistence with the West Bank and Gaza Arabs as a way of achieving that purpose.”

Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, meanwhile, announced that he had decided to release 100 Arab prisoners, some convicted criminals and some held for security offenses, as a gesture for the Moslem month of Ramadan which begins tomorrow.

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