Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin plans to seek immediate Cabinet approval Tuesday to move his offices to the predominantly Arab sector of East Jerusalem, government sources said today.
It will be Begin's first official action after a month of convalescence from a mild heart attack.
The move of the prime minister and his staff of about 250 aides and the expected final parliamentary approval of a controversial bill reasserting Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem are designed to symbolize the government's resolve to resist attempts by either Egypt or the United States to raise the question of Jerusalem in the Middle East peace negotiations.
Israel captured the eastern portion of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Both measures, which have been opposed by the United States in diplomatic communications, are likely to complicate the negotiations for proposed Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and intensify Arab world pressure on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to suspend the talks again.
In May, the Egyptian president broke off the negotiations upon learning that the parliament had given preliminary approval to the bill to perpetuate Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Begin remained secluded in his home today and did not attend the regular Cabinet meeting. But his intentions on the proposed office move were signaled by the prime minister's aides with a rebuttal of a statement by former foreign minister Moshe Dayan, who said he had opposed relocating Begin's offices to East Jerusalem.
When Dayan was still a member of the Cabinet, according to Begin's aides, the question of the office transfer was raised. But, according to Begin's aides, all the then-foreign minister said was, "I suppose we will have a discussion about it, but this is not a resolution or a decision yet."
In a television interview Friday, Dayan said he had objected to the proposed move as "unwise" because it would provoke Egypt and the United States and undercut the autonomy talks.
The office transfer from the western, or Jewish, sector of the city to heavily Arab East Jerusalem on the northern edge of the capital was first proposed publicly by Begin more than a year ago. But it has only been in recent weeks that the government has signaled its intentions to make the transfer immediately.
Workmen have accelerated finishing work on a six-story building in the Sheik Jarrach quarter that was begun six years ago by the former Labor Party government and originally designed for the Housing Ministry, whose main offices are crowded into a building in downtown Jerusalem.
Three government buildings are planned for the East Jerusalem site, which is behind the national police headquarters and surrounded by stone houses in what used to be small Arab villages outside the pre-1967 city limits.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem 18 days after the end of the 1967 war, trippling the size of the capital and bringing under Jerusalem's jurisdiction about 100,000 Arab inhabitants.
The United States and all other Western countries that have relations with Israel have refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital because under the 1947 United Nations partition plan, it was supposed to have been placed under international supervision.
Israel's annexation of the eastern sector after the 1967 war polarized international opinion on the city's status, and most foreign embassies -- including that of the United States -- are located in Tel Aviv.
U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis is said to have warned Begin several weeks ago that if the prime minister's offices are moved, Lewis will be unable to pay official visits in East Jerusalem. The embassy has refused to either confirm or deny the report.
Moreover, the British foreign secretary, Lord Carrington, has said it would be a "mistake" on Israel's part to move Begin's offices. The prime minister replied that it is none of Carrington's business where he chooses to work in Jerusalem.
High-ranking Israeli officials have made no attempt to conceal the motive behind moving Begin's offices.
"We must stand firm in our rights. And when our rights in Jerusalem are involved, we must not only stand firm, but also act demonstratively to assert our rights," Mattiyahu Shmuelevitz, director general of the prime minister's office, said.
Interior Minister Yosef Burg, who is also head of Israel's Palestinian autonomy negotiating team, noted that both the office transfer and the Jerusalem bill in the parliament were developing as the U.N. General Assembly debated a resolution demanding Israeli withdrawal from all areas captured in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem. Burg said it was "symbollic" that the U.N. debate was occuring as Jews marked the traditional observance of the destruction of the First and Second temples in Jerusalem.
However, there has been some opposition to the proposed office move. Labor Party leader Shimon Peres said Israel has the right to locate the prime minister's office anywhere in Jerusalem, but he opposes a move that will serve only to complicate the peace negotiations. Peres added that Begin's office was already in a "safe place."
Two Hebrew newspapers, the independent Haaretz and the Histadrut labor federation-affiliated Davar, yesterday published editorials opposing the move. f
Davar called the decision "empty exhibitionism," adding, "if Jerusalem is one and united as a city, then there is no difference between the eastern and the western portions. And there is no wisdom in focusing world attention on the capital of Israel."