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Knesset Votes 66 – 7 in Support of Government’s Rejection of Egypt’s Latest Peace Treaty Demands

The Knesset demonstrated overwhelming support for the government’s rejection of Egypt’s latest peace treaty demands and what it termed “unjust and one-sided” American support of the Egyptian position. A government motion to that effect was adopted last night by a vote of 66-7 following a seven-hour debate during which both coalition and opposition factions endorsed Premier Menachem Begin’s stance. There were 27 abstentions and 21 members were absent or did not participate in the voting.

The motion accused Egypt of advancing “new tough demands which prevented the signing of the peace treaty” and said the U.S. position “does not contribute to the advancement of peace.” The motion stated that “Israel wants peace and has made many sacrifices for peace. It will continue to act to achieve peace but it cannot accept proposals that put its welfare and security in jeopardy.”

The abstentions were by the Labor Alignment which expressed reservations over the autonomy plan for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Shimon Peres, chairman of the Labor Party, stressed that it backed Begin in resisting U.S. and Egyptian “pressure.”

UP-BEAT STATEMENT BY DAYAN

Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan wound up the debate with what appeared to observers to be an “up-beat” statement. Dayan said there was no cause to conclude that the peace talks with Egypt have ended forever. He said it would be pointless for Israel to reject all of Egypt’s demands and then do nothing. He said it was possible that the peace talks will be resumed, noting that Israel, for its part, has informed Secretary of State Cyrus Vance that it is willing to negotiate further over the proposed “side letter” to the treaty on arrangements for Palestinian autonomy.

Meanwhile, Dayan said, Israel could act along other lines. He said it could seek ways of starting talks with other Arab parties; seek ways to give the Palestinians greater independence on a unilateral basis; examine the “frameworks in which Israelis and West Bankers jointly benefited, such as common water sources”; and strengthen Israeli settlements “so as to demonstrate that Israel will not be pushed out of the West Bank.”

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