Former foreign minister Moshe Dayan today unveiled the center plank of the platform of the new National Unity Party he is expected to head in June 30 Israeli general election, calling for unilateral imposition of limited autonomy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip whether the Arab inhabitants there accept it or not.
In a discussion forum held here, and long regarded as a springboard for his political ambitions, Dayan made it clear that the election of the next Israeli government will be fought largely over the Palestinian issue and the future of the territories occupied in the 1967 war.
"I'm not expecting them [the Palestinians] to sign an agreement. I want to tell them, 'Look here, we are pulling out,'" Dayan said. He said that meant imposing an Arab civil government to replace the West Bank-Gaza military government, the installation of a strong local police force, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from densely populated Arab areas, and the insistence of the right of Jewish settlers to live anywhere in the occupied territories.
After five years of transtition, during which no negotiations on the future status of the areas would be held, Israel would invite the Palestinian inhabitants and Jordan to discuss a possible federation of the autonomous areas, either with Jordan or Israel, or both.
While Dayan's imposed autonomy views had been well known, today's platform discussion was the first indication that it will become the linchpin of the new National Unity Party, which is being formed around the three members of the existing Rafi Party. The members are former finance minister Yigael Hurwitz, Labor Minister Lsrael Katz and Knesset member Zalman Shoval.
Dayan all but announced today he will head the Rahel list, which would merge with the right-center Rafi faction, originally a splinter of Labor Party members who followed Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, out of Labor in a party schism. Dayan, who had been associated with the Labor Party for three decades, broke with it in 1977 when he joined the Likud government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. He abruptly quit his job as foreign minister in 1979 in policy dispute with Begin over the West Bank.
Dayan's entry into the campaign as the head of a new party is expected to trigger an intense battle for centrist and right-of-center voters who are believed to comprise the bulk of an estimated 38 percent of Israelis who are undecided in public opinion polls.
Begin's strategists have already made it clear that the Likud will attempt to focus the campaign on the West Bank, portraying Shimon Peres' Labor Party as the slate that would surrender the West Bank and set the stage for a Palestinian state.
When asked whether the Palestine Liberation Organization might use the unilateral withdrawal scheme as an opportunity to declare a Palestinian state, Dayan replied, "The same thing might happen if we withdraw by agreement. We have to check to see whether such a danger exists, and if it does, then we will withdraw, or we will go right back in."
Dayan conceded it is unlikely the new party will gain enough seats in parliament to form a government, but he said, "The idea is to get enough seats in order to influence the Knesset -- not on every issue, but on some."
Shoval, in an interview, said that if the Likud wins 30 seats and the religious parties win 15, "in such an event, a party with eight or nine seats becomes pivotal in forming a new government. That is what we are trying to do."
Dayan said he was withholding his announcement until next month. But he was known to have been attempting to broker an influential government position without running, and sources had said that if the Labor Party had offered him authority to negotiate all Arab peace agreements and offered him powers to administer the occupied areas, he would have withdrawn plans for a new party.