Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman resigned in protest today from the six-member committee that will begin negotiations with Egypt next week on autonomy for the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank.
Sources said Weizman was infuriated by two statements attached to Prime Minister Menachem Begin's autonomy plan. One unequivocally rejects the possibility of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an another declares Israeli's intention to claim sovereignty over the territories after a five-year transition period of limited self-rule.
Confirming rumors of deep divisions in Begin's Cabinet about the tone of the initial Israeli bargaining position, Weizman refused to participate in a vote of the 11-member ministerial committee called by Begin to put finishing touches on the proposal.
In a telephone interview, Weizman confirmed the Cabinet split, saying "because of many things, including these and others," he opposed the autonomy plan that the ministerial committee approved and sent to the full Cabinet for a vote Monday.
"There was a heated argument, and I did not participate in the voting. That's all I would like to say for now," Weizman said.
While not objecting to the principles in the two statements, Weizman is understood to have regarded them as a tactical bunder that will stall the autonomy talks from the beginning. He also reportedly said the committee should not have decided in advance such details as setting the number of Palestinian representative on the Autonomy Council at 11, setting the age of electors at 1, and having the council hold its meetings at Bethlehem.
Right-wing members of the ministerial committee, according to ministerial sources, criticized the defense minister, saying his refusal to participate in the autonomy negotiations would undermine Israel's bargaining position before the talks even start.
Besides Weizman, the six-man negotiating team comprises Interior Minister Yosef Burg, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon. Justice Minister Shmuel Tamir and Minister Without Portfolio Moshe Nissim. Burg, titular head of the National Religious Party and a vigorous defender of Israel's Bible-based claim to the territories, heads the team.
Sources said Weizman, a key figure in the negotiations that led to the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty on March 26, felt strongly that the autonomy proposal as drafted is not the basis for negotiations based on good will.
He presented his own revised draft, which contained changes mainly in tone and omitted the explicit rejection of a Palestinian state and Israel's claim to sovereignty of the occupied territories. Weizman argued that both positions are inherent in the Camp David agreements and that drawing attention to them will sour the spirit of the talks, the sources said.
Weizman is understood also to have opposed a statement in the autonomy proposal declaring that the Palestinian self-governing administrative council would derive its authority solely from the Israeli goverment. Implicit in that assertion is the message that the council could not dissolved by Israel if it failed to adhere to the principles laid down in its charter.
Dayan, who supported that definition of the council's source of authority, is said to have argued that it would enable Israel to prove later that there had been no legal transfer of sovereignty.
The autonomy draft, if approved by the Cabinet, will be the basis for Israel's negotiating position when autonomy talks begin in Beersheba. It apparently reflects the extreme bargaining position long expected by American and Egyptian diplomats. For its part, Egypt is expected to advance an equally extreme position calling for a Palestinian state.
The Israeli proposal closely resembles the original 26-point limited self-rule plan presented by Begin to President Carter and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in December 1977. But it has been pared to 22 clauses, plus the two statements of principle.
It limits self-rule to administrative-not legislative-functions, including social and educational services. Israel's army of occupation would withdraww to strategic positions outside densely populated areas. But Jewish settlements would remain and responsibility for security and public order would remain in Israel's hands. CAPTION: Picture, EZER WEIZMAN . . . a heated argument