JERUSALEM (Jan. 4)
Premier Menachem Begin spoke out strongly today against any proposal for Palestinian self-determination. He made his remarks in an impromptu meeting with newsmen at the Knesset only hours after Carter, following a 50-minute meeting with President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at Aswan this morning, alluded to Palestinian self-determination as one of the fundamental “principles” of a Middle East peace settlement. (See related story from Paris.)
“We do not beat about the bush,” Begin declared. “The term self-determination means a Palestinian state and we will not agree to such a mortal danger to Israel. The PLO would take it over in no time and turn it into a Soviet base” for attacking Israel’s hinterland and populated areas. “Soviet artillery would be supplied to an Arafatian state (PLO chieftain Yasir Arafat) within a matter of days or weeks at most,” Begin contended.
He expressed gratification that neither Sadat nor Carter had included the words “Palestinian state” in their remarks after the Aswan meeting. “If indeed the two Presidents did not use this term one should note this favorably, “Begin said.
However, he declared flatly: “There cannot be any self-determination as the term is understood in international law and practice for the problem of the Palestinian Arabs. There is self-determination for the Arabs in the existence of 21 sovereign (Arab) states.” Begin sought to reinforce his point by noting that “there are now several million Mexican Americans living in the United States and they don’t ask for the creation of a Mexican state on the border of Mexico and the U.S.”
CARTER’S PRINCIPLES FOR PEACE
Carter, who read a prepared statement while standing next to Sadat at Aswan airport, said: “There must be a resolution of the Palestinian problem in all its aspects. The resolution of the Palestinian problem must recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and enable the Palestinians to participate in the determination of their own future.”
Carter’s other principles for a “true peace” in the Mideast were “normal relations among the parties” based on “more than just an end to belligerency” and “withdrawal by Israel from territories occupied in 1967 and agreement on secure, recognized borders for all parties” in accordance with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. Sadat told reporters after Carter spoke that “I am very happy to say our views were identical and we have agreed upon certain steps to keep the momentum of the peace process.” Begin said Carter had telephoned him from the Presidential plane after leaving Egypt to convey Sadat’s expression of personal friendship ### him. “This is a mutual feeling,” the Premier said. “We had ### a language of common understanding, an element which can only help the process of negotiations.”
Begin’s absolute rejection of Palestinian self-determination and his invocation of the danger of a Soviet base and mortal peril to Israel, indicated that he was not likely to be shifted from his declared position. But Carter also seamed determined. He said in Aswan that “some flexibility is always needed to ensure successful negotiations and the resolution of conflicting views” and declared “There’s no good reason why accommodation cannot be reached.”
REMARKS CAUSE CONCERN
Although Carter has spoken on many previous occasions of the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinians and their right to self-determination–while saying he did not favor the idea of an independent Palestinian state–his remarks in Aswan today caused concern here.
Some observers recalled that the phrase “legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” was contained in the U.S.-Soviet joint statement on the Middle East issued last Oct. 1 which drew a barrage of angry criticism from Israel.
On the other hand, Carter’s pledge to “play an active role in the work of the political committee”–the joint Israeli-Egyptian body that will begin negotiations in Jerusalem later this month–was welcomed as an indication that the U.S. would make efforts to bridge the gap between Israel’s offer of “self-rule” for the West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs and Egypt’s demand that Israel accept, at least in principle, eventual Palestinian self-determination.
Begin insisted today that his proposals were widely regarded as “fair” and would provide “full autonomy in every walk of life” for the Palestinian Arabs and full security for Israel.
Carter flew to Paris today after meeting with Sadat for a 48-hour official visit with President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. The American President was in Saudi Arabia yesterday. A White House spokesman in his entourage said he and King Khalid had “a very good meeting” that lasted a half-hour. The President met afterwards with Crown Prince Fahd and “outlined the opportunities which he perceived far continued movement toward a comprehensive settlement” in the Middle East, the spokesman said.
There was no joint statement in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, and the Saudians neither endorsed nor criticized Sadat’s peace initiative. However, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud said after Carter’s departure yesterday that Khalid told the President he believed a just and lasting peace must include two conditions: complete Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied in the Six-Day War, including Jerusalem, and the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, including self-determination and the return of the refugees.