Begin Blasts Critics of His Settlement Policies

Premier Menachem Begin lashed out today against critics at home and abroad of his settlement policy on the West Bank. In a lengthy statement, penned by his own, hand, and released to the media in Hebrew and English at noon, the Premier reiterated his insistence on Israel’s “full right to settle in all parts of Eretz Israel” and accused Israelis who call that “provocation” of adopting “the evil path of the enemies of our people.”

Begin fired his verbal broadside as the Israeli, Egyptian and American delegations held their first business meeting in Alexandria in the negotiations for autonomy on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. His words were directed specifically at the Peace Now Movement which held mass demonstrations over the weekend against the controversial Alon Moreh settlement near Nablus; U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, who said on a Washington television interview yesterday that the settlement, “could contribute to a reversal” of the peace process (See separate story); and the New York Times, which has accused Begin editorially of breaking a pledge made at Camp David to freeze settlements.

Begin also reacted to a bitter personal attack against him published in the Cairo newspaper Al Akhbar yesterday by its editor, Mousso Sabry, who accused the Premier of a desire to kill the autonomy talks at their inception. He declared, “We shall pay no need to the invective or abuse spoken or written in Israel or abroad. We shall ensure, as the elected representatives and spokesmen of the nation, the peace of the people of Israel in the land of Israel.”

FREEZE WAS FOR THREE MONTHS ONLY

Begin said that the use by opposition circles in Israel of the word “provocation” was “perhaps the most distasteful element of the whole incitement campaign….If now there be Israelis of certain outlooks who accept the assumption that the presence of Jews alongside Arabs in our historic homeland, Eretz Israelis constitutes a provocation — then shame on them. By doing so they adopt the evil path of the enemies of our people.

Begin called the New York. Times’ criticism “distortions originating either in cynicism or in ignorance.” He said that assertions “that I allegedly promised somebody that we would never carry out settlement activity in areas of Eretz Israel, seized, so the paper writes, from the Arabs” have “absolutely no foundation.” Begin said he had committed himself at Camp David to freeze settlement activity for a period of three months that expired on Dec. 17, 1978. He said Secretary of State Cyrus Vance had in fact confirmed this in recent testimony before a Congressional committee.

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