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New Regulations Due to Implement Government’s Equalization Policy

August 17, 1977
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Defense Ministry, which initiated the government’s decision to equalize public services on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with that available in Israel, is now preparing to carry out the decision approved by the Cabinet Sunday.

A new regulation enabling West Bankers and Gazans to join a health insurance system will be promulgated in the next few days. According to the regulation, every resident in the two areas will be able to join the health insurance system by making a small payment. The Social Welfare Ministry will provide a subsidy for the poor and needy who cannot afford this payment.

Another regulation will provide for equal payment and equal social improvements, including insurance for Arabs from the administered areas working in Israel. An additional regulation will enable the West Bank and Gaza bus companies to get loans for renovating their fleets of buses.


Despite these projected developments and the assurances by the Begin government that the equalization policy has no political significance and is not a lever for annexationist moves, many questions remain in the minds of Israelis and Arabs in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The questions uppermost in the minds of many are:

*Is there, in practice, a political significance to the equalization policy or is it a humanitarian act as Premier Menachem Begin described it? In other words, are doveish Labor Alignment members looking for something which in reality does not exist and blowing the decision out of proportion?

An editorial in Maariv yesterday suggested this possibility, noting that the government did not need the equalization policy to prepare the basis for imposing Israeli rule (annexation) in the administered territories. Improving conditions in those areas under Israeli administration was a positive act “no matter what the political future of those areas would be,” Maariv stated.

*Does Israel have the funds to implement the equalization policy? For example, paying the West Bank and Gaza residents national insurance equal to that paid in Israel would involve additional expenses of hundreds of millions of Pounds annually.

As far as it is known, no one consulted the Finance Ministry where those funds would come from. One solution, at this moment more of an explanation, would be rising income tax in the administered areas. Income tax on the West Bank is still based on Jordanian law, which does not exceed five percent.


*Why was the decision announced at this time, just when Secretary of State Cyrus Vance ended a not too successful tour of the Mideast and just a few weeks before the foreign ministers of the region are to meet in New York? Asked about the timing of the decision, Begin replied, in somewhat jocular fashion: “The regular Cabinet session which takes place in Jerusalem every Sunday.”

*How will the decision affect the role of the local municipalities? Linking towns in the administered territories to the Israeli network of electricity and water supply could diminish their roles as centers of power in the territories. Most of the West Bank mayors are known sympathizers of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Previous attempts by the Israelis to organize them in “self government” structures have failed.

*What was the significance of not including the Golan Heights within the framework of the new policy? If it was only a humanitarian act, then why the exclusion? The Likud government has consistently hinted that it would be flexible when the time comes for negotiations regarding the Golan Heights.

Observers in Jerusalem remain unclear about the answers, the average West Banker and Gazan is suspicious and fearful and many Israelis are confused and uncertain. However, there is a consensus about one element: although the political implications of the decision may be felt very soon, the practical implementation of the policy will stretch over a long period of time.

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