Begin: Israel’s Defense Forces Will Remain on the West Bank, Gaza Strip Beyond the 5-year Transition

Premier Menachem Begin declared today that Israel’s defense forces will stay in Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip beyond the five-year transitional period “to defend Israel and its people.”

Addressing a cheering, enthusiastic audience of more than 2000 Jewish leaders from across the United States at the Americana Hotel here, the Premier, who arrived last night from Washington, said: “Yes, Judaea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip are integral parts of the land of Israel. This is our land of right. We do not ask for sovereignty over it because we want peace. Let the question of sovereignty be open.” Begin added that this question will be discussed during the negotiations on the future of these territories.

Begin, who received a four-minute standing ovation as he entered the hall, declared at the beginning of his speech: “We bring from Camp David a peace agreement with security and honor.” The framework for peace agreement, he said, was actually a “peace treaty.” But, he pointed out, there is one “outstanding” problem: the issue of Israeli settlements in Sinai.

Begin said that each one of Israel’s 120 Knesset members will have to vote on the Sinai settlements according to his “conscience,” without adhering to any party line. But he warned that Israel “will not allow any foreign pressure on the Knesset “to determine the result of the vote. Such pressure will be “intolerable,” he declared. But whatever the decision of the Knesset, “we will carry it out,” Begin said. He added that negotiations will, however, continue regardless of what the Knesset decides. Begin’s one-hour address, which was interrupted several times by extended applause, was broadcast directly to Israel by Israel Television.

The Premier said that according to the Camp David agreements, the Palestinians on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip “will have full autonomy.” Israel will not interfere in their autonomy, he said. “They will have self-rule and we, the Palestinian Jews, will have security.”

MAIN OBSTACLES DURING SUMMIT TALKS

Begin disclosed that during the first eight days of the Camp David summit the main obstacle was the demand that Israel sign a document stating the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force. “But we refused to sign this document,” Begin said, explaining that if territories were acquired during a war of defense, such as the Six-Day War, “territorial changes are not only admissible but necessary.”

Begin said that when pressure continued on Israel for such a document he met with President Carter and explained to the President that Israel does not ask for “one square kilometer of territory” on the West Bank and Gaza and leaves the question of sovereignty open because “we want peace.” He did not identify who demanded the document.

“I told the President, ‘let my right hand forget its cunning before I sign such a document.’” Should Israel sign such a document, Begin continued, it would mean committing itself to leave the Golan Heights and making an a priori commitment–even before the five-year period–to relinquish Judaea and Samaria “the land of our forefathers.” This, he said he told Carter, would create a major security risk for Israel if Yassir Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization were to take over the area. Negotiations continued, Begin said, after “that passage was deleted.”

Another difficulty during the Camp David talks was an Egyptian demand that a flag of an Arab state fly on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israel rejected the idea, Begin said, because the Temple Mount is the “holiest of the holiest” for Jews. “No Arab flag is going to be hoisted in Jerusalem,” Begin declared. “Jerusalem is reunited, indivisible, the eternal capital of Israel as long as the Jewish people will live.”

URGES U.S. RECOGNIZE JERUSALEM AS CAPITAL

He noted that Jerusalem is still not recognized by the United States as Israel’s capital. Recalling that Carter made a commitment during his election campaign to transfer the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Begin urged American Jews to call on Carter to stand by his promise. He called on the Jewish leaders to organize committees of Jews and Christians throughout the country to press the government to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its Embassy there.

Today’s meeting was organized and sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Conference chairman, Theodore R. Mann, in introducing Begin, declared that the American Jewish community supports “wholeheartedly and with a unity that is complete” the Camp David agreements and that “we will support you (Begin) in the weeks and months ahead.”

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