JERUSALEM (Jul. 23)
The Cabinet, meeting for six hours today, flatly rejected the return to Egypt of EI Arish or any part of Sinai as a unilateral gesture of good will to further peace negotiations but left the door open for continued talks with the Egyptians at the ministerial level.
The Israeli gesture had been requested by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt following the inconclusive talks between the Israeli and Egyptian Foreign Ministers and U.S Secretary of State Cyrus Vance at Leeds Castle, England last week. Reading a statement to reporters after the Cabinet session, Begin said: “The government authorizes me to inform Mr. Sadat that there cannot be any one-sided move by any state and there is nobody who can get something for nothing.”
He said that Israel was ready to negotiate such matters “on the basis of reciprocity.” Begin also disclosed that he was sending a personal message to Sadat informing him of the Cabinet’s decision and proposing new meetings between Israel and Egypt in Jerusalem, Cairo, Alexandria, Haifa or any other suitable place.
The Cabinet decision, however, was not unanimous. Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin, who is also the leader of the Democratic Movement for Change, was among those favoring a good-will gesture as a step toward improving the atmosphere between Egypt and Israel. Defense Minister Ezer Weizman voted with the government.
RESPONSE TO SADAT’S SPEECH
Today’s Cabinet action was a direct response to Sadat’s speech in Cairo yesterday in which he charged that the “expansionist ambition” of Begin and his “greediness for land” was “the only obstacle to peace in the Middle East.” Speaking on national television on the eve of the anniversary of the 1952 officers’ revolt that deposed the late King Farouk, Sadat declared:
“If Israel really wants peace, peace can be established within hours. The only obstacle is that the Prime Minister believes he can have peace and security guarantees and recognition and the land. We say peace, yes. Security guarantees for both sides, yes. Good neighborly relations, yes. Recognition, yes. But the land and sovereignty, no, a thousand times no. We do not bargain over the land.”
Begin told reporters that Sadat’s suggestion that Israel return the northern Sinai town of EI Arish, the capital of Sinai, to Egypt as a gesture of its good intentions, was conveyed to Weizman at their meeting near Salzburg, Austria two weeks ago. He claimed that Sadat also had asked for the return of Mr. Sinai where, according to scriptures, Moses received the Ten Commandments. “A unilateral step is not possible,” he said. Asked to comment on Sadat’s personal attack, Begin said “I admit I may be an obstacle, not to peace but to a kind of Munich-type surrender.”
Begin also disclosed that Vance had sent him a message after the Leeds Castle meeting, suggesting that the Israeli and Egyptian defense ministers as well as foreign ministers participate in the next round of talks. He said he agreed to allow Weizman to join in future meetings.
PREPARED TO CONTINUE TALKS
In earlier developments, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, returning Thursday night from his meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kaamel, said further talks were up to the Egyptians. “We are prepared to continue the talks with the Egyptians but if they will not come to the talks, there will be no talks, “he told reporters.
He made his comments when asked about reports that Egypt would agree to further discussions only if Israel commits itself to withdraw eventually from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “I suggest that they do not try to extort preconditions from us,” Dayan said. “I am against dictates to an agreement or dictates to territorial settlement. Things can be achieved only through negotiations.”
Dayan noted that Vance had suggested that he and Kaamel meet again in two weeks. “We have replied in the affirmative to that suggestion. I have not heard a positive reply from the Egyptians, but that is a problem for the Americans to solve, “he said.
Begin, addressing the executive of the National Religious Party in Tel Aviv last Thursday night, said he would crack down on leaders of the opposition Labor Alignment who “compete with us and conduct negotiations. ” He was referring to Alignment chairman Shimon Peres’ meeting with Sadat in Vienna earlier this month.
“Under no circumstances will we put up with the idea that a party defeated (in the elections) will run the country’s affairs, “Begin said. He denied that he had given unqualified approval to Peres’ trip to Vienna. He said he felt the Labo leader should not go but did not openly forbid him because the opposition threatened to use such ban as a political weapon.