The senior Israeli official in charge of administering the occupied West Bank was reported Tuesday to have resigned his post, prompting speculation that there have been differences over policy toward the area's Arab residents.
Brig. Gen. Ephraim Sneh, 44, announced his intention to step down as head of civil administration for the West Bank after serving in the job for two years and three months, according to Israel army radio.
Reports here suggested that Sneh, a medical doctor and son of the late Israeli Communist Party leader Moshe Sneh, has decided to retire from the army and enter public life in a position close to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Sneh was reported to have had a number of policy differences with Shmuel Goren, the coordinator for the Defense Ministry in the "administered territories," which also include the Gaza Strip. Goren is the senior Israeli official involved in governing the occupied territories, while Sneh was No. 2.
Water Project Controversy
The West Bank has been administered by the Israeli army since it was captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Most recently, Sneh and Goren were said to have differed over a controversial water project that would have pumped water from the West Bank Arab town of Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Sneh reportedly opposed the plan because of potential harm to Bethlehem's population, while Goren approved the idea as long as safeguards were taken.
"There was no single dispute; it was more of an incremental thing," said one Israeli analyst.
The reported conflicts between Goren and Sneh are regarded by Israeli analysts as reflecting the broader conflicts within the coalition government over West Bank policy. Hard-liners seek annexation of the territory while moderates are in favor of encouraging pro-Jordanian Arabs in the West Bank to play a greater role in local administration as a prelude to an overall peace settlement.
Sneh was formerly commander of the Israeli-controlled zone in southern Lebanon from 1981 until the Israeli invasion of that country in June, 1982. He will leave his West Bank post at the end of this month.
In the West Bank on Tuesday, a 12-year-old Arab boy was killed and two other youths were wounded by Israeli soldiers at the entrance to the Balata refugee camp near Nablus.
An Israeli army spokesman said that a Jewish settler was stopped in his car by an Arab demonstration and that when his window was broken by Arab youths, he began firing in the air and also at the feet of the demonstrators.
An army patrol joined the shooting, and the three youths were hit, the spokesman said.
Residents of the camp disputed the official account, however, saying the youth who was slain was on his way to buy groceries when the incident occurred.
After the killing, dozens of youths hurled stones and bottles and burned tires at the entrances of the Balata camp, according to reports from Nablus, a city of 90,000 about 45 miles north of Jerusalem.
The youths involved in the demonstration had been marking the fifth anniversary of the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian refugees at the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps south of Beirut. The refugees were killed by Lebanese Christian militiamen allied with Israel after Israeli troops besieged and occupied the capital.