JERUSALEM (Aug. 18)
While progress had been made on a number of issues in the settlement talks there were still some “very important sections still in dispute,” Premier Yitzhak Rabin told the Knesset today. Israel’s position on these disputed issues was “justified and vital,” he stated. Israel had made it abundantly clear to the U.S., and through the U.S. to Egypt, that its “positive attitude” to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s impending shuttle did not imply that it would soften its position on these still-disputed issues.
Rabin addressed a special recess plenary session of the Knesset convened at Likud’s behest to discuss the negotiations and upcoming shuttle. After Menachem Beigin, the Likud leader, and Rabin had spoken, the Knesset voted by overwhelming majority to hold a full-dress debate–without specifying the time. Rakah voted in opposition and Yaad abstained.
The atmosphere in the plenary was charged–and grew particularly vociferous when Rabin told Haim Landau, Herut’s number two man: “It is well known that you are a political Sancho Panza.” This had clear implications for Beigin, who was obliquely cast in the role of the famous tilter at windmills in Cervantes’ story of Don Quixote. The opposition benches exploded in uproar as Yitzhak Navon, a Labor Party member, an expert in Spanish literature, chided mockingly: “What do you want, Sancho Panza was a very sympathetic character…”
NO ROOM FOR MISUNDERSTANDINGS
The Premier said Israel’s positions had been most clearly stated yesterday during a six-hour Cabinet meeting and there was therefore “no room for misunderstandings.” The Cabinet’s “positive attitude” to the Kissinger mission should be seen in that light, Rabin said. The mission was “acceptable to us,” the Premier said, “because of our real desire for an agreement, which would be a blessing for both Israel and Egypt.”
The Cabinet, at its meeting yesterday, was careful to note in its communique that it gave its approval “to the position of the ministerial team on the issues of an interim settlement, as it has been clarified to the government of the United States, including issues of importance on which agreement has not yet been reached.” This wording, it was understood, was meant to underline the fact that there are questions which still have to be answered and that these are not merely marginal issues. The communique’s wording was also meant to forestall and possibility that Kissinger would again blame Israel for misleading him, as he did last March when his shuttle effort was suspended.
There was “no foundation whatever” to the allegations recently made by Likud and others that Kissinger would be “persona non grata” in Israel, Rabin asserted. Israel’s government had agreed to the shuttle mission “having exercised its own sovereign consideration.” Nor was it true that Israel was being “dictated to,” Rabin declared. Israel was not susceptible to dictates. A foundation of its relationship with the U.S. was American respect for its sovereignty and independence, he stated.
TERMS BETTER NOW THAN LAST MARCH
While not detailing them, Rabin assured the Knesset that the terms now under consideration were substantially better than those available last March. It was unjustified to say the impending agreement jeopardized Israel’s security. Security was based on several components, of which territory was one, weaponry another, Rabin said.
Israel would “not sign anything that is not in our interests,” he asserted. And the agreement would not be valid unless and until it obtained Knesset approval. The last stage of the talks would be “the most critical,” he warned. Rabin said he would give a full and detailed report to the Knesset and to the public. Meanwhile, the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee was being kept fully informed.
BEIGIN: GOVERNMENT RENEGES ON PLEDGE
Beigin accused the government of reneging on its firm pledge–enunciated in the Knesset by Rabin in February–not to surrender the Mitle and Gidi Passes and the Abu Rodeis oilfields unless Egypt renounced its state of war. Egypt had flatly rejected the non-belligerency demand, Beigin noted, and had moreover asserted that nonbelligerency was unacceptable in return for anything less than full withdrawal to the 1967 lines and a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.
A government reneging on such a basic commitment was no longer fit to govern and should resign, Beigin said. How could the impending agreement be termed a step towards peace if the state of war was to remain in force? he asked. It was also baseless to hope that three years of quietude would now ensue; Egypt would press its demands for full withdrawal with redoubled vigor, Beigin said.
This was not “peace in stages.” Beigin declared, but “surrender in stages.” He listed the “stages”:
At first Foreign Minister Yigal Allon had offered a 30-50 kilometer pullback excluding the passes and the oilfields. Then Rabin offered the passes and the oilfields for non-belligerency. Then Rabin offered half the passes and the oilfields without demanding non-belligerency. Then Rabin offered a roadway to the oilfields (instead of it being an enclave). Then he offered a broader swathe of land–but insisted on five kilometers of Israeli control inside the passes. Then he reneged on this insistence, speaking now of the “eastern approaches or slopes” of the passes.
This was a sure recipe for further pressures and for the destruction of Israel’s credibility, Beigin thundered.