The government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin has adopted a new policy toward the West Bank, indicating clearly that it recognizes a U.N. resolution calling for Israeli withdrawal from territories captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, senior Foreign Ministry officials confirmed yesterday.
They said new instructions would be sent this weekend to Israeli diplomatic missions to explain the new policy on the U.N. Resolution 242. The resolution calls among other things for Israeli withdrawal from all occupied territories.
Begin has refused to consider application of the resolution to the West Bank, maintaining that it is historically part of Israel.
The new government position was first advanced by Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan in a television interview Friday night. "Obviously the resolution asks us to withdraw from territories we captured from all the neighbours, including Jordan," Dayan said.
Begin had earlier insisted that the resolution did not apply to the West Bank, which Israel seized from Jordan in 1967, on grounds that Jordan did not have a legal claim to the area.
A senior Foreign Ministry official explained last night that "in our new position we will emphasize that we recognize the obligation to withdraw from territories occupied on all fronts in the 1967 war. Since the only territory we catpured from Jordan is the West Bank, such a position on our part clearly indicates that we do not exclude the West Bank from the territories over which we will negotiate withdrawal in a peace settlement."
Israeli officials expressed the hope that the revisied stand would repair the damage done to Israel's image over the past weeks, especially public impressions created during the Begin's visit to the United States that under him Israel had reversed its traditional position of accepting resolution 242.
Dayan will outline the new stand on the resolution at the Cabinet meeting today.
In his television interview, Dayan emphasized, however, that Israel would object to the inclusion of a specific commitment on Israeli pullout from the West Bank in a declaration of indent currently negotiated with Egypt. But he said Israel would reaffirm its acceptance of resolution 242, and recognize that it also applies to the West Bank.
Dayan said that for tactical reasons Israel would not spell out in detail its readiness to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Such specific commitment, he said, could not be separated from peace negotiations with Jordan.
Sources here said that Begin's reversal on the issue of West Bank came in recent days when the prime minister realized the extent of damage his position had caused to Israel's image abroad.