Begin Vows There Will Never Be a Palestinian State Autonomy Will Apply to the People, Not the Land
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Begin Vows There Will Never Be a Palestinian State Autonomy Will Apply to the People, Not the Land

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The Kneset’s marathon debate on the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and all of its annexes, was opened by Premier Menachem Begin this morning. He spoke for well over on hour in defense of the treaty but vowed repeatedly that there would never be a Palestinian state and that autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip would apply to the people, not the land they live on.

The debate was scheduled to adjourn at 9 p.m. local time tonight and resume tomorrow morning the vote on the treaty is not expected to be held until Thursday morning as most of the 120 Knesset members have registered to speak.

But despite heckling by Communist MKs and bitter attacks on the treaty by diehard members of Begin’s own Herut faction, notably Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, approval of the treaty is considered a virtual certainty and there was little suspense as the debate rolled on into the evening hours.


Most pundits expect an overwhelming majority to vote in favor of the pact. The opposition Labor Party announced yesterday that it would support the treaty in whatever form it is presented {SPAN}###{/SPAN} Labor Alignment partner Mapam did the same Last night Likud’s Liberal Party wing agreed to support the treaty as the National Religious Party had done earlier, although the latter expressed serious reservations over the autonomy plan.

Approval was also announced by the Democratic Movement, headed by Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin and its break-away “Shai” (Change) action which is now in the opposition camp.

The most serious challenge came at a meeting of the Herut Central Committee in Tel Aviv last night which was not attended by Begin. A verbal ###rewl erupted briefly when a member demanded a vote of censure against Begin. But in the final ###e, some 80 percent of the 700-member committee backed the Prime Minister.


Nevertheless, Begin was obviously aware of the hardcore of anti treaty sentiment within his own party and the reluctance of the support of {SPAN}###ed{/SPAN} by some of his coalition partners, notably the NRP. His speech seemed intended to re-assure the waverers and to warn Cairo.

Begin declared: “Israel will never return to the borders of 1967. Neither will she allow the one and unified Jerusalem to be divided or for a Palestinian state to be established on her borders.

The only autonomy that will be established is ### autonomy which applies to the residents of those lands, not the lands themselves. “He insisted, “What I am saying does not belong to politics. What I am saying is our very life and existence.” He added that “no force in the world” would make Israel retreat on those issues.

(In Cairo Egyptian Premier Mustapha Khalil described Begin’s remarks as “an inappropriate start for an era in which we hope everybody will work toward laying down a sound basis for just and durable peace in the Middle East and to teach a comprehensive settlement.”

In a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry, he added that “what Mr. Begin said contradicts the basis of peace agreed upon in Camp David and spoils the atmosphere which we hoped to prevail at the signing of the (Egyptian-Israeli peace) agreement.”).

Begin stressed the historical significance of the peace treaty with Egypt and its advantages for Israel. He related in detail the latest stages of the peace negotiations. He said that on the issue of Sinai oil, Egypt had not been as forthcoming as expected but noted that Israel has received a commitment from the U.S. to supply its oil needs for 15 years if Israel is unable to find other sources of supply. “We will do all we can to avoid depending on the U.S. on this issue,” Begin said.


Begin was followed on the podium by Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres who stressed, “The Labor Party supports and will always support territorial compromise because the only alternative to such compromise is the loss of all territory.” Peres declared that “The real choice is between compromise for peace and decision for war. Today we are a strong state with the ability to actively direct ourselves toward peace,” he said.

He challenged Begin’s interpretation of autonomy. “How can you separate a resident from his land, a farmer from his field?” he asked. “The government cannot and must not say that concessions only seem one way but are in fact another. We must possess a responsible lexicon. If not, we will only delude ourselves and in the end, each man will doubt the other,” Peres said.

While the Knesset debate was in progress, some 100 Gush Emunim members demonstrated their defiance of the peace treaty by setting up camp near. EI Arish, some 50 miles inside Sinai, and proclaiming a new Jewish settlement. They claimed that the site, Wadf el Arish, is the Biblical “river of Egypt” which God “promised” to the Israeli les. The squatters raised an Israeli flag and began erecting pre-fabricated huts in the territory that is to be returned to Egypt under the peace treaty terms.

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