Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan last night signaled a significant softening of Israel's position on withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.
In a cautiously-worded television interview, which is believed to have been coordinated with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Dayan asserted the belief that the U.N. resolution calling for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories applies to the negotiations between Israel and all its neighbors, including Jordan.
"Obviously, the resolution asks us to withdraw from territories we captured from all the neighbors, including Jordan," Dayan said in reply to an interviewer's questions.
Dayan's statement reflected a significant departure from the recent Israeli position that the U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, adopted in November 1967, does not call for Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied during the 1967 war, or even on all fronts, especially since Israel holds that Jordan does not have a legal claim to the West Bank.
The television interview followed publication of an article in the English-language Jerusalem Post suggesting a shift in the position of Prime Minister Begin on the West Bank issue.
The newspaper said a chance in Israel's position would be considered over the weekend in meetings between Dayan and top policy-makers.
Begin has refused to consider application of the U.N. resolution to the West Bank, maintaining that it is historically part of Israel and also that Israeli withdrawal would endanger the country's security.
By mentioning a readiness to negotiate a withdrawal from occupied territories with Jordan, Dayan seemed to suggest that Israel was willing to consider a pullout from the West Bank. which Israel considers to be associated with Jordan.
He added, however, that the negotiating parties "cannot add words which do not appear in the original" U.N. resolution "and therefore change its meaning." This was taken to mean that Israel was unwilling to be any more explicit at this point, although signalling a willingness to consider withdrawl.
Dayan said if the Israeli position recognizing application of Resolution 242 to all fronts but without addition of text is accepted by Egypt, there will be no difficulty in phrasing the long negotiated declaration of intent, which could serve as a basis for the peace agreement with Egypt.