Begin Unveils Peace Plan: Proposes Separate Negotiations Between Israel and Arab Neighbors in Geneva

Premier Menachem Begin of Israel unveiled his peace plan at a press conference here this afternoon. He proposes separate negotiations between Israel and each of its Arab neighbors within the framework of the Geneva conference which he suggested should be reconvened in October.

He said the talks would be aimed first at ending the state of war, second, the establishment of permanent boundaries and third, the establishment of diplomatic and economic relations to be followed by agreements on such less vital matters as tourism and fishing rights.

Begin said the participants in the conference should be Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and possibly Lebanon. He flatly ruled out any negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization because that group wants “to destroy our country and destroy our people.” However, Begin said that Israel would not object if Palestinians–but not the PLO–were members of the Arab states’ delegations. “If Palestinian Arabs participate in the Jordanian delegation, we will not look for their credentials,” he said.

Begin’s press conference in the Executive Office Building was broadcast live by satellite to Israel. He declined to discuss details of territorial issues and, in fact, called for a “political truce” until the Geneva conference is reconvened. “Let everyone cease making statements,” he said. He was lavish in his praise of President Carter with whom he had five hours of meetings in the last two days, including a 90-minute private meeting in the President’s quarters at the White House following last night’s working dinner. He said of his talks with Carter, “We established a personal rapport which will not only be for the months ahead but for the years to come.”

Begin stressed that “there is no confrontation between the U.S. and Israel” and that he and Carter had developed a “deep and lasting” friendship between their countries.

ELEMENTS OF PLAN OUTLINED

The Israeli leader also stressed that the parties to the Geneva conference must come to the negotiating table without pre-conditions. He said Arab insistence that Israel accept their position on territories and the Palestinians or Israel’s insistence on Arab acceptance of its position on Jerusalem would constitute pre-conditions.

Begin proposed that when the parties get to Geneva each would make an opening statement after which “commissions”–three or four of them, depending on whether Lebanon participates–would meet separately under rotating chairmanships to work out peace treaties between Israel and each of the neighboring states. Begin acknowledged that this was essentially the form of the Rhodes armistice talks in 1949. He said those talks had been expected to result in peace and now, after 29 years, the process could be resumed.

Begin’s peace plan, however, contained two alternative proposals. He said that if the Arabs refused to go to Geneva unless the PLO was a participant, the same mixed commissions could be set up, through the good offices of the United States, to convene in the capitals of any of the participating countries or on neutral ground. The second alternative was the convening in New York of “proximity talks” of the kind first suggested by the U.S. in 1972. The parties would meet under the same roof but would negotiate indirectly through U.S. mediators.

LID PLACED ON FURTHER PUBLIC STATEMENTS

At a press briefing earlier today, White House Press Secretary Jody Powell said there would be no more public statements on specific proposals for a Mideast settlement. He said this was a “new phase” in the peacemaking process and that “this phase is a sign of progress.” Powell said that Carter and Begin had discussed U.S. arms for Israel “only very briefly.” He stressed that the important thing was not U.S. -Israeli agreement but agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbors. He said the U.S. wants to use its good offices to help the parties reach some kind of agreement. Powell said “the focus should now be” on Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s forthcoming trip to the Middle East “which hopefully will lead to a Geneva conference.”

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