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Begin Returns Home; Rebuts Criticism Levelled Against Him by Opposition

Premier Menachem Begin returned from the U.S. this morning and launched into an angry rebuttal of criticism levelled against him by former Premier Yitzhak Rabin and other Labor Alignment leaders. In a brief press conference at Ben Gurion Airport, Begin flatly rejected Rabin’s contention that he had failed to coordinate U.S.-Israel policy and thereby opened the way for an inevitable confrontation with America when the Geneva conference is reconvened.

Begin attacked the former Rabin government for creating a “bitter confrontation” with the U.S. which his government, he claimed, has succeeded in ending. He said that by trying to reach an agreement with Washington before the Geneva conference, Rabin had actually asked for American pressure.

“Of course the Americans were willing to reach a prior agreement but an agreement according to their terms,” Begin said. He also claimed that Rabin’s meetings with Carter last March were a “very difficult conversation,” in contrast, apparently to the “rapport” that he succeeded in establishing with the President.

“Not only is there no confrontation, there is even a promise for arms supplies,” Begin said. He said the arms are worth $250 million and, contrary to custom, he mentioned 19 Cobra helicopters for anti-tank warfare as one “of the most important items promised.” He acknowledged that differences existed with the U.S. “They are well known, but we did not ask to reach an agreement with the U.S. before Geneva,” he said. He reiterated that “We will go to Geneva with no preconditions.”

DEFENDS HIS PEACE PLAN

Begin also lashed out at former Foreign Minister Yigal Allon who had criticized the Premier’s peace plan for failing to mention diplomatic relations with the Arab states as one of the aims of negotiations. Begin contended that this did not need specification because it was implicit in other elements of the plan. But it was in fact spelled out in order to avoid any doubts, Begin said.

He said the words “diplomatic relations” did not appear in the draft of the document presented to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee “because of forgetfulness.” However, he said, when he discovered that those words were missing, just before his meeting with Carter, he ordered that part of the document re-written. “Thus the Americans received an Israeli document which specified diplomatic relations as part of Israel’s understanding of peace,” Begin said.

Begin also accused the opposition of “leaking” the document presented to the Knesset committee. “This is an act of irresponsibility and we shall learn the lesson,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was quoted by the Middle East News Agency in Cairo yesterday as saying that he believes if Israel is ready for peace, a solution can be found to the question of a Palestinian presence at the Geneva conference. “But any solution should take in consideration the fact that without solving the Palestinian problem there will be no permanent peace in the area because it is the core of the whole problem,” Sadat was reported to have said in an interview with French television.

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