The Israeli civilian governor of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip said today that elections for the proposed autonomy council for Arab self-government will not be held until after the "power and influence" of Palestine Liberation Organization supporters has been removed.
Menachem Milson, who in the past week deposed the elected Palestinian mayors of three major West Bank cities because they openly supported the PLO and refused to cooperate with the occupation government, called the current wave of violence against Israeli security forces "a crucial struggle for the very possibility of coexistence between Israel and Palestinian Arabs."
"If people are pro-PLO, then they are terrorists, anti-Semites and bent on the destruction of Israel. If they are not PLO, Israel has no objection to dealing with them," Milson said in a press conference for foreign journalists, his first since he took over from the military governor of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in November.
It was the first explicit rejection by a senior Israeli official of the notion of allowing PLO supporters, who swept the 1976 local elections in most major West Bank towns, to participate in proposed autonomy elections.
Under the Camp David accords, Israel, Egypt and the United States are to negotiate an autonomy agreement under which elected Arab representatives will manage municipal services in the West Bank while Israel, by its interpretation of the accords, retains effective control of the territory as the occupying authority. After a five-year transition that begins with the election of the autonomous council, each party that has participated in the autonomy arrangement may assert its claim to sovereignty.
There is nothing in the accords that excludes or explicitly includes the participation of the PLO or any other such organization.
Milson's comments came as scattered disturbances continued in the West Bank, although it was relatively calm compared to the past several days of violence that left seven people--six Palestinians and one Israeli soldier--dead. Today's most serious incident was in Halhoul, where an Arab youth was shot and wounded by an official of the occupation government's civil administration after the official's car was stoned by demonstrators, according to an Army spokesman.
A curfew was imposed on the Jalazoun refugee camp near Ramallah when disturbances broke out and demonstrations were reported outside mosques in East Jerusalem, El Bireh and other West Bank towns. Armored personnel carriers continued to patrol Nablus and Ramallah, which remained relatively quiet on the Moslem Sabbath.
Milson, at his press conference, said, "I certainly hope, and it is my intention . . . that when elections are held for the autonomy council, it will be after the power and influence of terrorist organizations has been removed, so that when the elections are held, they will be held in a truly democratic fashion in the same way that elections are held in the United States, Holland or Israel."
Milson also said that the mayors of Nablus, Ramallah and El Bireh, whom he deposed and replaced with Israeli officials, eventually will be replaced by local Arab appointees who do not support the PLO. He would not say when the appointments will be made.
"I'm not speaking about elections. I'm speaking about local people who will take over," Milson said.
Milson's remarks appeared to confirm fears expressed this week by many West Bank Palestinian nationalists that the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin is determined to dissolve the militantly nationalist leadership in other West Bank towns.
Milson, who as an Army lieutenant colonel served in the West Bank military government, was installed in November as "civil administrator" of the occupied territories in an administrative reshuffle that the government said was intended to separate the military security functions in the West Bank from civil affairs.
Milson said 10 major West Bank towns had mayors and councils openly backing the PLO.
"Israel is now in a very serious struggle against the PLO," Milson said. "We are determined to implement the Camp David accords, to create an atmosphere and situation in which Palestinian Arabs who want to express their views without fear will be able to express their views."
Eliminating pro-PLO influence from the West Bank is necessary, Milson said, because "this destructive position of the PLO and the evil doctrines behind it are illegitimate. They are immoral and therefore are illegitimate. They are illegitimate in the West Bank, illegitimate in Amman; they are illegitimate in Beirut, or Paris or New York."
Contradicting the longstanding Israeli position that the 1976 West Bank elections supervised by the military government were the first democratic and free elections ever held in the former Jordanian-controlled territory, Milson said, "These were elections held on terrorism, intimidation, bribery."
Asked about the apparent discrepancy between his recollection of the 1976 elections and numerous accounts published by the Israeli government, Milson said:
"Israel took pride at the time in organizing the elections in the most democratic way. That is absolutely correct. . . . We unfortunately at that time failed to see that the population was intimidated very seriously, intimidated in cases, bribed in other cases by that evil organization. Therefore, the end result was not democratic elections in the true sense."