Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, in his talks with U.S. officials in Washington next week, is expected to emphasize the compatibility of Israel's proposal for self-rule on the occupied West Bank with U.N. resolution 242.
This move is seen as a determined effort by Begin to sidestep the controversy that has developed within his government and in Washington over apparent Israeli changes in interpretation of 242, the resolution adopted in 1967 as the guideline for eventual Middle East peace.
Asked in parliament yesterday whether there was any truth in press reports that the Israeli government has withdrawn its support for resolution 242, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan said there was "no foundation" to such stories.
Dayan added that "however, there are a number of different interpretations" but he said that "there is absolutely no contracdiction between resolution 242 and the Israeli peace plan."
[In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Reston told reporters: "It is true that we do have differences of opinion with the Israelis on the interpretation of resolution 242." He gave no details but other officials in Washington said, according to Reuter, that the differences are of profound importance and have become the central obstacle to further progress in the peace talks.]
Previous Labor Party governments in Israel have interpreted 242 as calling for eventual withdrawal from portions of all three occupied territories - the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip. Begins Likud Party has always interpreted 242 as not calling for withdrawal from the West Bank but had not made this interpretation official Israeli policy.
In negotiations with Egypt over a declaration of principles, however, a new Israeli formulation was recently put forward that suggested 242 does not apply to the west Bank.
This Israeli position was first mentioned in public by Cabinet minister Haim Landau two weeks ago but drew public attention here only last weekend when it was vehemently attacked by former Prime Ministers Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin and former Foreign Minister Abba Eban, all of the Labor Party.
At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, several ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin, reportedly urged Begin to change his position on 242. He refused but reportedly agreed that Israel's position on U.N. resolution should nonetheless, he stated in a positive fashion.