NEW YORK (Dec. 18)
Israeli Premier Menachem Begin said today that he will propose to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that the Palestinian Arabs on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip be given “self-rule.” The Premier also stressed that Jerusalem will remain a united city and the capital of Israel with each religious group having control over its holy places.
But, Begin, in an interview on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation,” refused to give any details of his proposals until he discusses them with Sadat in Egypt late this week or early next week. He also refused to say whether President Carter, with whom he had met with for four hours at two meetings on Friday morning and last night, had approved of the proposal although he noted that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance had said the President considers Begin’s efforts “constructive.”(See related story from Washington.)
The Israeli Premier stressed that he didn’t ask Carter for a “commitment,” but had sought the President’s “goodwill and understanding” which he had received. “I am leaving (Washington) a happy man,” Begin said.
Most of the talks had centered on “the question of what is going to happen with the Palestinian Arabs,” Begin said. He then revealed that he proposed to give the “Palestinian Arabs self-rule for the first time in history.” He noted they had never had “autonomy” or “self-rule” since they had been governed by the Turks, the British, Jordan and now Israel. He added that Israel’s rule was probably the most benevolent but it was still a military government. “We will make it possible For the Palestinian Arabs to have self-rule. They will conduct their own affairs,” Begin explained. “We will have our security.”
WILL NOT DEAL WITH PLO
Asked what would happen if under self-rule the Palestinians elected Yasir Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Begin again reiterated that Israel will not deal with the PLO. But he said he doubted that the Palestinians in a democratic election would elect destructive people such as Arafat or that such people would be willing to run in the elections.
Begin said that if he and Sadat come to an agreement he hopes that Carter would then invite both of them to Washington. He said the world would then have a Christian President, a Moslem President and a Jewish Premier declaring “peace unto you.” He used the Latin, Hebrew and Arabic words for the phrase.
When it was pointed out that both Sadat and the Saudi Arabians have stressed that East Jerusalem must be in Arab hands, Begin said, “I feel strongly about Jerusalem, too,” noting it was the capital not only of Israel but of the Jewish people.” Jerusalem is one city, the capital of the State of Israel, with complete access to the holy shrines of all religions,” he said. He noted that during the 19 years of Jordanian rule Jews were denied access to the Old City and the Western Wall.
Begin said that “we may have a proposal” that will include autonomy for each religious group of its own holy shrines. But he was even more reticent on going into details over this than he had been over his proposal for self-rule for the Palestinian Arabs.
The Premier rejected a suggestion that his proposal would mean that there will no longer be any new Jewish settlements on the West Bank. He said once an agreement has been reached, Jews should have the right to settle in Samaria and Judaea as they do now and West Bank Arabs should be able to settle in Israel.
STILL WANTS COMPREHENSIVE ACCORD
Begin stressed again that Israel still wants a comprehensive agreement with all the neighboring Arab states. But he said if Egypt wants a separate agreement as a first step to a comprehensive agreement, Israel will consider it. He noted on previous occasions, Syria and Jordan have followed Egypt’s lead in this, although it may take some time.
Begin said he and Sadat wanted to work out an agreement that would last beyond their tenures in office. He said that Sadat told him he would not run for re-election in 1981 and he certainly did not expect to be Premier by then. On other topics, he said that Israel did not ask for a mutual security treaty with the United States and would not initiate such a move. Begin also said he did not believe international guarantees were reliable and reiterated his rejection to having Soviet involvement in the Mideast negotiations.