JERUSALEM (Jul. 10)
Premier Menachem Begin urged a “political armistice” in the Middle East and suggested that Israel and its Arab neighbors refrain from defining future borders and national security until the Geneva conference reconvenes. Begin offered the truce in his address to the 80th annual convention of the Zionist Organization of America here.
He responded to a warning by President Anwar Sadat that Egypt would retaliate if Israel launched an atomic war by saying that Israel will not threaten war, nuclear or conventional. Begin also expressed hope that President Carter will order the U.S. Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Sen. Robert Dole (R. Kan.), who also spoke at the ZOA convention, declared that Jerusalem is historically and legally a Jewish city and that “In the search for a solution, whatever else may be negotiable, the capital of Israel clearly is not.” Dole, who was President Ford’s running mate in the U.S. elections last year, said he agreed fully with Begin’s view that the West Bank is “liberated territory, not occupied territory”. He claimed that Israel has the right to relinquish all or part of the West Bank territory but “that is her right, it is not her obligation”.
CHANGES IN THE ARAB WORLD NOTED
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan told the convention that Israel was ready to make political compromises but would not compromise on its ideals. He said the Arabs “still want what they wanted before but they now want to get it through American pressure rather than by force of arms.”
He noted, however, that there have been changes in the Arab world. While the late Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, preferred to have the Suez Canal blocked and the canal cities devastated, Sadat has opened the canal to navigation, has brought back millions of people to the canal cities and is even ready for peace talks, Dayan said. In warning that the Arabs have not given up their goals regarding Israel, he said “we should see in a positive light their readiness for a political alternative.”
Defense Minister Ezer Weizmann said he regards as his greatest challenge the prevention of war. “To prevent war, we shall use political wisdom and maintain our military strength,” he told the convention. He also thanked the United States for the great aid it has rendered to Israel.
Shimon Peres, who was the Defense Minister in the Rabin government, received a prolonged applause when he said “We shall not permit political differences to split our unity as a nation, as Jews and as Zionists.” He called for the continued up building of Jerusalem and urged that aliya be increased. “Israel should be a magnet for aliya,” he declared.
SOME U.S. OFFICIALS PLAYING DEVIOUS GAME
Rabbi Joseph Sternstein, president of the ZOA, lashed out at elements in the State Department and other officials of the Carter Administration who he accused of playing a “devious game” in the course of recent negotiations. “It seems that the State Department machinations are coupled with brandishing the recent Brookings Report as God’s own word on Middle East policy,” Sternstein said. He was referring to a study made by the Brookings Institute some time ago which recommended Israel’s withdrawal from occupied Arab territories with only minor border rectifications.
Sternstein said the ZOA approved and endorsed Jewish settlements in the Judaea and Smaria regions. Refraining from such settlements “will not buy good will or favor from our enemies, ” he said.
The ZOA convention received a message of greetings from President Carter. The President said: “I assure you of my Administration’s commitment to the security of Israel and to the realization of our shared goal of peace. The ties between Israel and the U.S. are deep, strong and enduring.” The convention opening last Thursday night was attended by President Ephraim Katzir, Cabinet ministers, U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis and Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem.
(In Washington, the State Department refused to comment on statements by Dole and Sterstein supporting Israeli control of the West Bank. The Department also refused to comment on a charge, made several days earlier by Former Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon that the U.S. “was bullying the new Israeli government into a Middle East settlement by making irresponsible demands to withdraw from occupied Arab land.”)