The Cabinet met for nearly five hours today but was unable to reach a consensus on Israel’s replies to the American questions on the future of the West Bank. It is expected to convene again in special session some time during the week to try to resolve the issue. No date was announced.
The first two hours of today’s meeting, which was postponed from Sunday because of the Shavuot holiday, was devoted to current matters. The American questions were taken up in the final 21/2 hours which did not allow enough time for all of the ministers to express themselves on the subject. At least 13 ministers are still to be heard from, including Premier Menachem Begin who is deliberately withholding his views until he hears the opinions of all of his colleagues. Begin reportedly tried but failed to obtain a consensus before today’s Cabinet meeting began.
The questions posed by the United States relate to the status of the West Bank after the expiration of five years of “self-rule” proposed by Begin and how Israel intends to extend political self-expression to the Palestinians. Begin’s position is not known but it is assumed that he favors an answer that is affirmative in tone but couched in general terms. Some political observers here do not believe that Washington will accept an Israeli response that seeks to distinguish between “status” and “sovereignty” on the West Bank and would leave the sovereignty issue unsettled even after five years of self-rule.
MANY POSITIONS STILL UNCLEAR
Last Friday, Begin held preliminary discussions with Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, apparently in an attempt to gain their support for his draft of a reply to the U.S. But it is still unclear what positions those ministers will adopt. The position of Defense Minister Ezer Weizman is also unclear. It is not known whether he shares Begin’s views or even whether Weizman, Dayan and Yadin are of like mind on the issue. The U.S. is said to regard Israel’s replies as crucial to chances for resuming the stalled peace talks with Egypt.
The Cabinet was briefed by Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan on this morning’s terrorist raid on Meholah settlement in the Jordan Valley and tomorrow’s scheduled final withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.