Israel today unveiled a plan for a road network linking Army Camps and Israeli civilian settlements in a revised autonomy package for the occupied West Bank. The plan will be presented next week to the United States and Egypt.
Although Interior Minister Yosef Burg, the chief Israeli autonomy negotiator, said the plan was not the "final word on security" arrangements for the West Bank, the plan was given maximum publicity all day on Israeli radio.
The radio said the new plan's advantages include an unspecified reduction in troop strength and increased protection against terrorist attacks on the settlements. The hilltop roads will provide an early warning system and a means of rapid assistance.
The aim of the plan is "to prevent the isolation of either Army camps or settlements," Israeli radio said.
The plan calls for pulling troops out of the heavily populated area in the West Bank, reducing them in number and redeploying them in less populated areas facing the larger blocs of Arab population along the road network.
The proposal would apparently give Israeli troops free movement within the occupied zone. Begin has said that without Israeli control of security, the area, with its 1.2 million Palestinians, could become "another Lebanon."
Egypt, on the other hand, has proposed that all Israeli troop movements be governed by a Palestinian council after autonomy.
Egypt has signaled its doubts about achieving meaningful progress on the issue of autonomy for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip during the American presidential year and expressed private doubts whether the Camp David peace formula is still viable.
Nonetheless, "talks about talks" begin July 2 in Washington. Egypt broke off negotiations in May when it became clear that the original May 26 deadline for an autonomy plan would not be met.
The Begin government has built or is building east-west roads in both the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. Additionally, the so-called Allon Road, along the ridges of the hills east of the main north-south road has been operational for years.
Despite the new plan, opponents of the Begin government's settlement policy have argued that the Jewish settlements are not forward outposts protecting pre-1967 Israel, but rather liabilities to the protection of the eastern front in any emergency.
Among the respected retired military men critical of the security aspects of the settlements policy has been Gen. Haim Bar-Lev, the former chief of staff.