JERUSALEM (Jan. 2)
Senior Cabinet ministers sought to reassure alarmed settlers in northern Sinai and on the West Bank yesterday that Premier Menachem Begin’s peace plan would not compromise their security although it would require them to adjust to certain new conditions. They stressed that this was in the interest of peace, that most of the nation firmly supported the government’s peace momentum and there was no turning back.
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and Minister of Agriculture Ariel Sharon brought that message to 3000 settlers from the Rafah salient and Yamit assembled at Sadat in northern Sinai, a region that would be returned to Egypt under Begin’s plan. Minister of Interior Yosef Burg and Education Minister Zevulun Hammer of the National Religious Party (NRP) spoke to settlers at Migdal Oz in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem who oppose Begin’s plan to extend “self-rule” to the Arabs in the Judaea and Samaria regions.
Sharon tried to persuade the settlers to continue their work and increase production. He promised that Israeli forces would protect them, not only during the five-year transition period envisaged by Begin, but always. He said nothing was more important from the security aspect and the Zionist concept than that they remain in the area and cultivate it.
DAYAN SOUNDS SOMBER NOTE
Dayan sounded a more somber note. He said he understood why the settlers were worried but told them in effect to “bite the bullet” and prepare to live under different conditions than existed hitherto. He stressed that Begin’s plan was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Knesset and warned that “shouting will not help anything.”
He promised that if peace is achieved, “even if the Israeli flag is no longer hoisted here or at Ophira (Sharm el-Sheikh), the practical means of life, of Israeli administration and Israeli security are assured. If you still say no to peace, “he warned, “the nation will not be with you.”
The settlers, many of them immigrants from the United States and the Soviet Union, did not appear to be reassured. Dayan’s remarks were interrupted more than once and he was heckled. “I did not leave the U.S. to live under the Egyptian flag,” one sun-tanned young farmer shouted. Another, from Russia, declared, “We did not come from one exile to live in another.” A young sabra cried out, “You cannot solve the problem of Arab refugees by creating Jewish refugees.”
It was learned later that Dayan’s speech at Sadat had been cleared in advance by the Cabinet at its weekly meeting yesterday morning. Earlier, in a television interview, Dayan insisted that Israeli settlements in Sinai will never be abandoned and Israeli forces would always be responsible for their security although the army would, in the future, hold lines “in front of them, not behind them. He said the government planned to take appropriate measures to guarantee “not only the existence of those settlements but also their security and their link with Israel.”
DOES NOT SHARE BEGIN’S OPTIMISM
Dayan denied any differences between himself and Begin but admitted that he did not share Begin’s “optimism” over the outcome of his Dec. 25-26 summit meeting with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. With respect to Begin’s plans for the West Bank, Dayan said the Israeli army would remain in that territory to make sure that the Arab residents did not abuse their “autonomy” by attempting to set up a Palestinian state. He said the army would intervene if the Palestine Liberation Organization tried to settle hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees on the West Bank.
The Israeli forces will remain in the area “not to interfere in the lives of the Arabs–we want to stop this, to abolish the military administration–but to protect Israel’s populace,” Dayan said. “If no attempt is made to violate the agreement in a way that would be detrimental to us, the Arabs can live in these areas without ever coming into contact with the Israeli army during their entire lives,” Dayan declared.
He stressed the importance of Jordan’s role in any future peace settlement. He said Israel’s position is that Jordan’s role is a subject for negotiations in which Jordan has been invited to participate. “We are not trying to push Jordan out, but she does not want to come in,” Dayan said.
At Migdal Oz, Burg was confronted with a promise he had made after the elections that the NRP would do everything it could to have Israeli law imposed in Judaea and Samaria. “We have come today to demand that this undertaking be fulfilled,” the settlers said. Burg defended the peace plan, however.
He said there were doubts on one side and fears on the other, but at least a start has been made. “I want to repeat, the time of festivals is over and the struggle for peace has started,” he said. Hammer also supported the Begin plan. “We had to take risks for peace,” he told the settlers.
HISTADRUT AGAINST DESERTING SETTLEMENTS
Meanwhile, the Histadrut Executive stood opposed to deserting any settlements in the administered territories. A statement adopted said that the settlements were intended as a security belt for Israel and their position must remain secure regardless of any peace settlement to come.
The Gush Emunim secretariate, which met yesterday, said it expected the government to yield further concessions. It demanded that three Gush settlement groups, presently contained within older settlements, be allowed to establish their own outposts on the West Bank without delay. Gush leader Hanan Porat took that demand to Begin who was confined to his home yesterday with the flu.
Some of the changes that would affect Israeli settlers in northern Sinai were indicated by informed sources here. They would probably have to pay taxes to the Egyptian government and would be subject to the Egyptian criminal code although civil disputes would be heard before Israeli courts, the sources said. Egypt would also have the right to insist that its flag be flown over Israeli settlements in Sinai. In any event, there would be no Israeli flag. But the sources said that Egypt would be asked to waive certain sovereign rights thereby giving the Israelis a degree of extra-territorial status.